By Myron Levin.
Automakers run campaigns to curb distracted driving, even as they cash in on the distractions.
Declaring that it is “passionate” about the safety of young drivers, Ford is sponsoring clinics at US high schools, urging teens to heed traffic laws and avoid distractions behind the wheel. The auto giant, as part of its “Driving Skills for Life” program, also recently awarded $25,000 to students who created the best music video about the hazards of distracted driving.
BMW, likewise, has launched “Don’t Txt & Drive,” a series of ads dramatizing the risks of distracted driving. And the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, an industry trade group, is teaming with the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons on a similar campaign.
With efforts like these, automakers are positioning themselves as leaders in the fight against distracted driving, a problem federal authorities estimate caused 5,474 deaths in 2009—including 995 from using cell phones. Yet even as they urge drivers to focus on the road, these same companies are packing their new models with cutting-edge infotainment systems that encourage drivers to multitask.
Ford’s SYNC system, for instance, let drivers use voice commands and touch screens to make and receive calls, listen to texts, and choose from a menu of replies. BMW’s Connected Drive provides calling, email, and text read-backs, displaying email subject lines on a screen. General Motors struts its stuff in this 30-second Super Bowl spot, which features a young Chevy owner checking his first date’s Facebook status….
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