Verizon Wireless jumps into anti-texting fray

BASKING RIDGE, NJ: Verizon Wireless has launched a new campaign called "Don't Text and Drive," born out of its long-standing corporate position against texting while behind the wheel.

BASKING RIDGE, NJ: Verizon Wireless has launched a new campaign called “Don't Text and Drive,” born out of its long-standing corporate position against texting while behind the wheel.

Since its inception in 2000, Verizon Wireless has supported legislation for hands-free devices when driving, first at the state level, including in California and Illinois, and now federally. The company produces handsets, as well as headset technology.

“From a corporate communications standpoint, we helped drive the company's decision to take a stand apart from the rest of the industry in 2000-2001,” Jeffrey Nelson, executive director, corporate communications, Verizon Wireless, told PRWeek. “And there has been a benefit to the brand in being different from the other guys.”

Recently, other wireless providers—namely, AT&T and Sprint—have publicly supported the same kind of legislation. The issue was the focus of the Distracted Driving Summit September 30-October 1, sponsored by the US Department of Transportation. The summit was in response to public and legislator outcry about the dangers of cell phone use, including texting, while driving.

While AT&T and now Verizon have launched awareness campaigns around the problem, other cellular providers have been quieter about it. One provider, T-Mobile, is looking to its employees to champion hands-free cell phone use while driving. T-Mobile's VP of federal legislative affairs, Tony Russo, said in a statement that company CEO Robert Dotson and senior member were the first to take a pledge to not engage in text messaging or e-mailing while driving in order "to lead by example."

Joseph Farren, VP, global public affairs practice, Waggener Edstrom (T-Mobile AOR), said the pledge was rolled out to all 40,000-plus T-Mobile USA employees. Employees received a short video message from Dotson, and were then taken to an internal Web site where they could enter the names of loved ones that they would like to make their pledge to.

Verizon's statement on its campaign took the opportunity to address the fact that it supported such legislation long before its competitors. The campaign includes TV, radio, print, online, billboards and nontraditional media.

PR is handled by Verizon's AOR Weber Shandwick.

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