At her press conference following Wednesday's brief City Council Meeting, Mayor Annise Parker kicked off Mayors United Against Texting While Driving, a social media campaign to challenge all Texans to take the pledge to not text and drive. The Campaign will run in Houston, Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin, San Antonio, and El Paso. The cities are vying to see which has the largest number of drivers taking the pledge. Mayor Parker was joined by Alice Aanstoos, Regional Vice President for AT&T which has partnered with Houston's first It Can Wait campaign last April. The new campaign will expand Houston's effort to all of Texas.
One reason for the effort is that there is no state law in Texas that makes texting while driving illegal. Two statutes have been passed by the legislature and vetoed by Governor Perry. In response, some cities have enacted local ordinances, but the ordinances are not identical and they can apply only within city limits, so drivers cannot be certain as to what their duties, responsibilities, and possible fines might be as they drive through the state.
Although the It Can Wait Pledge, started by ATT has been online nationally, and over 1 million Internet users have taken it, there was no way to determine specifically which region the pledges came from. The new campaign, every city will have its own city-specific code drivers are asked to take the pledge to abstain from texting while driving by sending the text message “ItcanwaitHou” to 464329. The message will identify the source as a Houston driver.
Ms. Anastoos stated that all major carriers have joined in supporting the campaign by recognizing the pledge. In addition, ATT has a new application on all its Samsung smart phones. The application can determine when a cell phone user is moving at more than 20 miles an hour, (presumably driving) and goes into a “driving mode” which automatically sends a message to any sender of an incoming text stating that the user is driving and unable to respond.
Following the press conference, Mayor Parker and staff members used an ATT driving simulator to demonstrate risk of distraction from a cell phone while driving.