Everybody wants people to stop texting while they drive. Teenagers especially are prone to doing stupid things behind the wheel, and as a result are more prone to do something such as break out the phone when they are behind the wheel. As a result, many of the campaigns are established to scare teens straight, by showing accidents caused by distracted driving.
I don’t think this is going to work, because in the back of a young person’s mind there’s always that idea that while people in ads might be unable to text and drive at the same time, the teen is an expert and totally able to handle both activities. They know better, because they have this glorious misplaced confidence that comes with being young and on the cusp of being an adult. Sure, they usually get some sense when they grow up, but they are a difficult to reach because they have a belief in their own infallibility. The only way to reach them is to crush that belief, and I’ve got a pretty good idea of how you pull that off.
This idea comes from a Belgian ad campaign aimed at preventing texting on the road, which is very well executed but still suffers from being an ad campaign, and thus probably less than convincing for regular teens who think they’re smarter than everyone. It takes a driver instructor, on a closed course with only pylons and cardboard to drive into, and an average teenage driver. The driver is told they are required to send a text and avoid an obstacle, and none of them can actually pull it off. This is great, because it’s a safe way to learn your limitations. Nobody is going to be seriously injured on the course, it’s cheap to execute, and it gets the message across. So, instead of an ad campaign, this should be rolled into actual driver training courses.
It’s a bad habit you want to stop early, and you want to get people to realize that it makes driving more difficult. So, you have to give them a real life example of why they can’t text and drive, and the only way to do that is to force them to text and drive, just in a controlled and safe environment. All you need is an open lot, some cones and a car that nobody will object to being scuffed and scraped. Here, we’ve got a big lot by the Gallagher Center that could be used, cones are easy to come by, and it’s not hard to find an old car, either through a dealer sponsorship or just buying an old heap. Set up a course, tell the kid to either bring their phone or supply one, and let them go. Watch as they plow through all the cones on the course and actually realize that it’s not safe driving. SGI could be a sponsor, and film the results for an ad campaign of their own if they wish. It wouldn’t be very expensive, most of the components could be used each year for the following driver’s education class, and it would be the only way to get through to the more stubborn habitual texters.
A lot of time is spent trying to scare kids into proper driving behavior, but it’s a difficult group to reach. With an example of them failing at the task on a controlled course, you’re going to be much more likely to actually reach them. It’s difficult to say “well, that guy might not be able to text and drive, but I’m able to” if all of your friends have seen you plow through the cones when attempting it. If we’re going to curb distracted driving, this is the best way to pull it off.