Yesterday, Ford publicly backed proposed legislation that would ban text messaging while driving. The correlation is an obvious one for the company and it's no shock that it would take this stance on what has become an increasingly important issue. But the fact that it is the first car company to do so is a little bit surprising. The National Safety Council issued a call for a federal ban on cell phone use in January. By July, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY) introduced legislation that would force states to ban the practice, already outlawed in more than a dozen states.
Certainly Ford has gained media exposure and corporate reputation points for being the first to endorse this legislation, but given the countless studies that have come out showing the dangers of texting while driving, why haven't other automakers done the same? It seems like a no-brainer. To be fair, the industry has certainly had its share of woes over the past year, but if anything that should inspire them to take advantage of opportunities to take leadership positions on what boils down to a public safety issue.
In this era of declining consumer trust and corporate reputation, companies are constantly looking for ways to connect with their consumer audience. Some embark on large-scale CSR and cause-marketing campaigns in an effort to not only do something for the greater good of society but also boost their reputation. Understandably companies are sometimes hesitant to take positions on controversial issues. But something such as texting while driving is seemingly innocuous and could only benefit those companies that support a ban on it. And in this particular case, it's something that should extend beyond the auto industry.
In fact, I've often wondered why cell phone manufacturers and service providers haven't launched campaigns of their own to educate and remind consumers of the proper use and times to use cell phones. An education campaign from Motorola, Samsung, LG, or Verizon or AT&T on the importance of not texting while driving seems like a logical opportunity to take an important stance on an issue that directly ties to their business.
Now that Ford has come forward in support of this legislation, other companies across industries are likely to follow. While it may seem like a small and obvious gesture, sometimes those are those ones that resonate the most with consumers.