Your Text Message Can Wait: AT&T Releases “The Last Text” Documentary

AT&T has released an eleven minute documentary titled "The Last Text" as part of their texting and driving awareness campaign, suggesting that this New Year's Eve partiers need not only a designated driver, but also a designated texter.

AT&T has released an eleven minute documentary titled The Last Text as part of their texting and driving awareness campaign, suggesting that this New Year’s Eve partiers need not only a designated driver, but also a designated texter.

The documentary features stories from people who have been impacted by texting and driving incidents; this includes the parents of Mariah West who died in a car accident after texting a friend. According to Cathy Coughlin, senior executive vice president and global marketing officer for AT&T: “This documentary is a raw look at the reality and hazards of texting while driving, and we hope it will make wireless customers think twice before pulling out their cell phones in the driver’s seat.”

The earnest video is powerful, borrowing its tone from drinking and driving commercials which have attempted to convey a similar message for decades: safety over convenience. AT&T is distributing the short film to schools, government agencies, and via its YouTube channel in hopes of having it seen before texters ring in 2011.

The documentary is part of AT&T’s texting and driving awareness campaign which was launched in March, 2010. The campaign titled “It Can Wait” includes material both print and online. Of particular interest, it also features a Facebook App which allows friends to take a pledge not to text and drive. While AT&T is a front runner in texting and driving prevention, they are not the only company trying to make a difference; Sprint, The Oprah Winfrey Show, and even the Gwent Police Department in Wales have all launched various projects to bring awareness to a topic which impacts everyone on the road.

According to the U.S Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, “of the 5,500 people killed last year due to distracted driving, the largest proportion of fatalities occurred among young people under the age of 20. I hope teens will take this powerful video to heart and realize that when you’re behind the wheel, no text message or phone call is worth the risk.” He goes on to call the growth of distracted driving accidents an “epidemic”, placing particular emphasis on teens and young adults.

While the AT&T campaign, including The Last Text, certainly brings positive publicity to their company, and is most definitely a proactive public relations move, there is no denying that texting and driving is an increasing problem on roads everywhere. The campaign makes intelligent use of both print and new media, and the Facebook app is a particularly strong device, appropriately targeted at the demographic that needs the pledge most. However, a single campaign is only the beginning of larger fight; if drinking and driving is any indication, getting people to change their driving habits, particularly if it impacts what driver’s perceive as being convenient is no easy feat.

As with drinking and driving, texting and driving prevention requires laws, policing, and, perhaps, most importantly, the support of public opinion. So, this New Years Eve tell your friends that while it is unacceptable to drink and drive, it is no better to text and drive.