DALLAS – AT&T recently announced a $1M contribution to a program designed to educate the public about the dangers of texting while driving. Automotive Fleet spoke with AT&T spokesperson Mari Melguizo about how the company applies aspects of this campaign against texting while driving internally, including how it educates its fleet drivers about proper cell phone use while on the job.

Although cell phones can enable better communication with field employees, the dangers inherent in their use require rules and the use of technologies that help drivers avoid distraction. Company spokesperson Mari Melguizo said although AT&T field employees are equipped with cell phones, company policy prohibits texting while driving. Since 2009, AT&T has revised its wireless and motor vehicle policies to more clearly and explicitly prohibit texting and driving, which affects its more than 260,000 employees.

“Employees also have a GPS and computer, which allow their supervisors to track their locations,” said Melguizo. “This in turn helps determine whether the vehicle is in motion and when it is safe for them to call or text their employees. AT&T also created a website that managers can use to determine if a technician was using a company-issued cell phone while the vehicle was moving.”

AT&T has a wide range of methods it uses to ensure compliance and ensure driver safety in general.

“AT&T requires both an instructor-led, behind-the-wheel and a web-based course on defensive driving,” Melguizo said. “The course covers a wide range of defensive driving techniques, one of which is to eliminate or reduce distractions, particularly those associated with the use of cell phones will driving. The course specifically prohibits sending or receiving text messages while driving.”

Melguizo said AT&T has focused its initiative not only on company drivers, but on all of its employees.

“While enhancing our company’s motor vehicle policy was an important first step in communicating the importance of the ‘Txtng and Drivng…It Can Wait’ campaign, we’ve communicated with employees in many ways over the last 16 months,” Melguizo said. “We’ve held pledge drives, shared stories on our internal website, offered car decals to employees, launched a friends and family referral program and created a site on our company social media platform where employees can learn more and discuss the initiative.”

One aspect of its anti-texting-while-driving initiative, called “Txtng & Drivng…It Can Wait,” features a 10-minute documentary called “The Last Text,” which shows how people’s lives have been negatively affected by texting while driving. 

“We’ve also incorporated a don’t-text-and-drive message on the plastic clings that protect handset screens on the majority of new devices sold in AT&T’s more than 2,300 stores, and integrated campaign messaging in AT&T catalogs, in-store signage and collateral, bills, e-mails, newsletters and more,” Melguizo said. “Also, the 10-minute documentary, ‘The Last Text,’ has been used as an educational tool for the employee base.”

The “Txtng and Drivng…It Can Wait” is not the company’s first effort aimed at curbing distracted driving. The company’s “Be Sensible” campaign offers a variety of safety tips.

“Safety is our No. 1 priority,” Melguizo said. “We want our employees and all wireless users to use our products and services, as well as the products and services of our competitors, safely. We have a long history of encouraging customers to use their device sensibly. Prior to this initiative we had the award winning ‘Be Sensible’ campaign that focused on customers using their wireless devices in a sensible manner.”

By Greg Basich