Alyson Geller: “Dear Allstate…”

Tony’s Story
April 9, 2018

Alyson Geller: “Dear Allstate…”

Dear Allstate,

As I watched your commercial ‘Mayhem lost phone’ I thought, this is great – a responsible message about cell phone distracted driving! But your disheartening ad instead blows an opportunity to message responsibly, and makes light of a reckless and totally preventable behavior.

The character ‘Mayhem’ hides under the car seats pretending to be a buzzing phone. The driver, head down, desperately roots around for the phone, eventually crashing into the car in front of him. The ad cautions us to “be aware of Mayhem, he’s everywhere.” And warns, “don’t let Mayhem cost you a fortune.”

Of course, Mayhem isn’t some dude who is “everywhere” or under the seats. He is us, making reckless decisions.  

Cell phone distracted driving is thought to be behind an unprecedented rise in traffic fatalities. In 2016, 37,461 lives were lost on US roadways, up 5.6% from the previous year, and the second year motor vehicle crashes increased, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In 2017, motor vehicle-related crashes took the lives of 6,000 pedestrians — numbers not seen in 25 years, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association. The nonprofit National Safety Council estimates that cell phone usage is involved in 26% of all traffic crashes, and new data from Cambridge Mobile Telematics, one of the world’s leading smartphone-telematics, suggests that more than half of all trips that ended in a crash also included some form of mobile phone.

Your decision to not directly blame the driver, a person who could be any one of us, is so disturbing. Only 2% of these incidents are truly caused by something other than our own poor decisions, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Nearly all crashes stem from preventable driver behavior like distracted driving, drinking and other risky activity (about six percent are caused by vehicle malfunctions, weather, and other factors, like maybe some creepy guy under the seat).  

I get your ad. Don’t let ‘mayhem’ (poor attention) cause your premiums to rise. But I wish Allstate would take the lead and have the moral fiber to air an ad that points directly to the very real human behavior that is not only raising premiums, but tragic and preventable injury and death. Rising premiums aren’t the only result of using a cell phone while driving.

Alyson Geller is a writer, educator and public health advocate focusing on the distracted driving epidemic. She has developed and led school and community-based programming to raise awareness of digital distraction, and organized leadership training, workshops and presentations for students, teachers and parents. She has written feature articles, news, and education pieces for print publications and websites, and has produced health and consumer education pieces for broadcast media.

Her social links: Facebook | Twitter | LinkedIn

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