[telecom] AT&T Chief Speaks Out on Texting at the Wheel

AT&T Chief Speaks Out on Texting at the Wheel

By MATT RICHTEL September 19, 2012

SAN FRANCISCO - Randall L. Stephenson, the chairman and chief executive of AT&T, spoke Wednesday morning at a conference in New York to hundreds of major investors, including Fortune 500 executives. The topic was the state of the telecom businesses, but he began with a request on a different topic: Please don't text and drive.

He's been saying it a lot lately, at investor conferences, the annual shareholder meeting in April, town halls and civic club meetings, and in conversations with chief executives of other major companies.

AT&T is not the first or only carrier to raise awareness on this issue, but the message is starting at the top and it's personal.

Mr. Stephenson said in an interview that a few years ago someone close to him caused an accident while texting. As he has become more vocal about texting and driving, he said people were coming up to him and writing him with their own stories of tragedy, including admissions that they caused accidents.

The smartphone, he says, "is a product we sell and it's being used inappropriately." For him, that means the company he runs has to get involved in a public awareness campaign. "We have got to drive behavior."

Safety advocates say for the moment that they are particularly impressed by AT&T's persistent and broad efforts to draw attention to the problem of texting while driving.


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