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TMCNet:  State Farm, AT&T launch programs to curb teen texting while driving

[September 14, 2012]

State Farm, AT&T launch programs to curb teen texting while driving

Sep 14, 2012 (The Kansas City Star - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- txt n drive omg Teens already know it's dangerous to text on their cell phones while driving. The trick is getting them to act on that knowledge.

Maybe the message to quit would stick if it came with a chance for teens to win a new car, land a $100,000 grant for their high school or see first-hand how texting impairs their driving.

Here comes that chance Kansas City.

Area high schools are in the running for the big check as part of a Celebrate My Drive campaign by State Farm insurance. The winner will be determined by student, parent and others' votes online at www.celebratemydrive.com and in person Saturday at the Oak Park Mall.

And one lucky area teenager will win a 2013 Chevrolet Sonic LS, plus $5,000.

Separately, AT&T Inc. has set Wednesday as the day for anyone to pledge to never to text and drive as part of its ongoing It Can Wait campaign.

The mobile phone company also is bringing its text-while-driving simulator car back to the Kansas City area later this month, after a visit in May. And AT&T said it will launch a simulator online that schools and other groups will be able to use.

Both companies' efforts are aimed at linking behavior with the message to not text and drive.

"Everyone believes texting while driving is wrong, yet a high percentage of teens see their parents texting," said Jim Camoriano, a spokesman for State Farm.

Teen texting behind the wheel of a car particularly remains a threat on America's roadways, according to surveys both companies have done.

An AT&T survey this spring found that 43 percent of teens admitted they had texted while driving. Their behavior was reinforced by what they saw, as 41 percent said they'd seen their parents read or send an email or text while driving.

The wireless phone company offers a free phone app called AT&T DriveMode. When activated, it silences incoming call and text notices and automatically replies that the user is driving and will respond when it is safe.

State Farm said its poll in July found 34 percent of teenaged drivers admitted texting while they drove -- although 78 percent also said they had interrupted a friend who was about to do the same.

Most of the disrupted texters stopped.

"It was very promising to see so many teens voice their concerns about this issue and see that the drivers listened to them and took action," said Chris Mullen, State Farm's director of technology research.

State Farm's campaign is aimed specifically at supporting that message among teenage drivers with a positive appeal -- winning the car, the school grant or some other stuff.

All high schools within 50 miles of the Oak Park Mall are eligible, whether public, private or charter schools. Anyone can vote once a day for a favorite school online and from kiosks set up at the mall Saturday. The winner will be chosen based on the vote totals and size of the schools.

To reach Mark Davis, call 816-234-4372 or send email to mdavis@kcstar.com ___ (c)2012 The Kansas City Star (Kansas City, Mo.) Visit The Kansas City Star (Kansas City, Mo.) at www.kansascity.com Distributed by MCT Information Services

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