U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) joined the Ad Council, Fox Home Entertainment, and the State Attorneys General and Consumer Protection Agencies to release new distracted driving public service announcements (PSAs) aimed at young adults featuring scenes from FOX's award-winning television series "Glee." The PSAs are part of the national "Stop the Texts. Stop the Wrecks." campaign that launched in October 2011 to educate young drivers about the dangers of texting behind the wheel.
"Distracted driving is an epidemic on our roadways, and our youngest and most inexperienced drivers are often the most at risk," said U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood. "Young people across the country watch 'Glee,' and we're thrilled to partner with the show to spread the word that texting and driving don't mix. I thank the Ad Council, Ryan Murphy, and the cast of 'Glee' for their continued efforts to raise awareness about this issue."
In the new television and digital PSAs produced by Fox Home Entertainment, Dianna Agron's character, Quinn Fabray, crashes her car as the direct result of texting while driving. The PSAs emphasize that reading a text message behind the wheel can take your eyes off the road for an average of five seconds – enough time to drive the length of a football field. Viewers can visit Distraction.gov and StopTextsStopWrecks.org to learn more about distracted driving and get tips on how to curb texting behind the wheel.
"This was a story we wanted to tell because we know the influence our show can have in starting conversations and raising awareness," commented "Glee" executive producer and co-creator Ryan Murphy. "We were inspired by Oprah Winfrey's campaign encouraging everyone to sign a pledge not to text and drive, which we all signed when we did her show a few years ago, and we had been looking for an opportunity to tell the story of how a few seconds of carelessness could have a devastating impact on people's lives. We've already heard from thousands of our fans how this story touched them, and we loved the idea of a PSA campaign to keep this important issue front and center."
For more than twenty-five years, NHTSA and the Ad Council have worked together on consumer safety PSA campaigns. The "Stop the Texts. Stop the Wrecks." effort has received more than $20 million in donated media support to date. All of the new PSAs will run and air in advertising time and space that is donated by the media.
"Texting behind the wheel is a serious danger to both the driver and everyone else on the road," said Peggy Conlon, President and CEO of the Ad Council. "Thanks to the commitment of Fox Entertainment and 'Glee' and the persistence of our safety partners and advocates, we will continue working to reduce driver distraction, prevent injuries, and save lives."
According to NHTSA research, at least 3,092 people were killed in 2010 in distraction-affected crashes – accounting for approximately one in every ten fatalities on the nation's roadways.
"It's imperative that we help educate the public about the dangers of texting while driving," said NHTSA Administrator David Strickland. "These new PSAs show that distracted driving can have serious consequences, and we hope that's a message young drivers take to heart and share with their friends."
The PSA release coincides with today's NHTSA announcement of a new grant program that will provide up to $17.5 million to states that have laws banning distracted driving in fiscal year (FY) 2013. Authorized by Congress under the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21), a state must have a comprehensive, primary law against distracted driving or a primary law prohibiting texting while driving in order to qualify for the grants. States with secondary laws, which require law enforcement to observe a primary offense prior to enforcing the distraction law, would not be eligible. Under MAP-21, Congress also authorized an additional $5 million for NHTSA to develop paid advertising to support state enforcement of laws against distracted driving.
In June, USDOT released a "Blueprint for Ending Distracted Driving" that offers a comprehensive strategy to address the growing and dangerous practice of using handheld cell phones behind the wheel. The plan, which outlines concrete steps stakeholders around the country can take to reduce the risk posed by distracted driving, builds on the national momentum that Secretary LaHood and USDOT have spearheaded for the last three years.
To learn more about USDOT's efforts to stop distracted driving, please visit www.Distraction.gov. For more information on the "Stop the Texts. Stop the Wrecks." campaign, please visit www.StopTextsStopWrecks.org.