Distractedly driving while texting is a categorically reckless activity, like jaywalking, or drunk-IMing an ex-girlfriend. AT&T has a harrowing new film, titled "The Last Text," illustrating the awful consequences. But are they employing a distraction method of their own?
The movie's points cannot be argued. Texting while driving is stupid—period—and can ruin or end lives. And the argument is hard to ignore, with an emotional pummeling of head-shaking highway cops, distraught mothers, and physical therapy patients. The video works, in that it scares the hell out of you and makes you sad. This is a good thing. if AT&T (among others) can force connotations of death and loss upon texting while driving, roads might be safer. This is noble.
What's maybe not so noble is the fact that every other part of AT&T's mobile business is just as much a threat to your life on the road, and doesn't have an accompanying scare video. Many states already ban phones while driving, with exceptions for those who use Bluetooth headsets—which AT&T conveniently sells. But this isn't enough. According to a University of Utah study, "Using a cell phone use while driving, whether it's hand-held or hands-free, delays a driver's reactions as much as having a blood alcohol concentration at the legal limit of .08 percent." (Emphasis mine) That is to say, driving with a phone, even if you're not using it to text, can kill you. It can cause the same tragic endings AT&T has gone through such effort to depict in "The Last Text"—without any texts at all.
What AT&T is doing with the video is laudable. It takes at least some degree of corporate courage to not only admit, but so emphatically proclaim that your own service kills people. But by placing so much emphasis on the texting, we're worried the rest of the message might get lost amid the sobbing. Phones in the hands of drivers, whether AT&T's phones or someone else's, can make you just as dead whether you're typing "where u at" or having a quick conversation via Bluetooth. The effort here is a good start, but we'll feel safer when carriers fess up to the rest of their products' dangers. [AT&T]