The country's four biggest cellphone companies are set to launch their first joint advertising campaign against texting while driving, uniting behind AT&T's "It Can Wait" slogan to blanket TV and radio this summer.
The campaign is unusual not just because it unites rivals, but because it represents companies warning against the dangers of their own products. After initially fighting laws against cellphone use while driving, cellphone companies have begun to embrace the language of the federal government's campaign against cellphone use by drivers.
AT&T and Verizon have run ads against texting and driving since 2009. In 2005, Sprint Nextel Corp. created an education program targeting teens learning to drive.
"Every CEO in the industry . . . recognizes that this is an issue that needs to be dealt with," AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson said. "I think we all understand that pooling our resources with one consistent message is a lot more powerful than all four of us having different messages and going different directions."
Beyond TV and radio ads, the campaign will include store displays, community events, social-media outreach and a national tour of a driving simulator -- plus displays on Goodyear's three blimps. The campaign targets teens in particular.
AT&T Inc. calls texting and driving an "epidemic," a term it borrows from the federal Department of Transportation. The U.S. transportation secretary has been on a self-described "rampage" against cellphones since his term began in January 2009, and the government's Distraction.gov site singles out cellphones as the greatest danger among all sources of driver distraction.
The number of teens killed or injured as a result of texting while driving has climbed in recent years. Researchers at Cohen Children's Medical Center in New Hyde Park estimate more than 3,000 annual teen deaths nationwide from texting and 300,000 injuries.
Cohen investigators found that while driving between September 2010 and December 2011, among 8,947 teenagers aged 15-18 nationwide, an estimated 49 percent of boys admitted to texting while driving compared with 45 percent of girls.