Hey buddy, distracted driving applies to you, too

Hey buddy, distracted driving applies to you, too

Updated 12/3/11 at 7:03 a.m.

Earlier this week, I was astonished at the carelessness of one of our own. I couldn’t believe the behavior of a professional who represents the auto industry here in the D.C. area.

A friend of mine brought the tweet of Audi’s social media manager, Andy White, to my attention because of my prior campaign against distracted driving called Distraction Free Fridays. I was shocked to find yet another example in the auto community of someone not caring about an issue that impacts so many lives.

On November 30, Andy White took a photo with his iPhone of his iPad resting on his steering wheel, then tweeted that picture to his 741 followers, while driving down I-66 in Northern Virginia.

Audi should not only be aware of Andy’s dangerous behind-the-wheel move, but they should also take action against Mr. White for his poor choices as a public representation of their brand. This kind of negligence is reminiscent of Scott Bartosiewicz, who was part of Chrysler’s social media team, and infamously tweeted from the driver’s seat last fall. While it’s not exactly an apples-to-apples comparison, automakers need to understand that if you’re hiring individuals to represent your brand, it’s your responsibility to both train these people to be the best public face and keep a pulse on their public interactions.

Whatever happened to the 4,000 VW and Audi employees who pledged, as part of a program with the Department of Transportation, to never text and drive? Tweeting IS a form of texting. I guess Andy forgot about that when he was touting his new “in-car multitouch connected enabled mobile office.”

This should be a lesson to all of us who represent the auto industry as professionals. Although the campaign may be over, the cause is not. So please take the Distraction Free Fridays (#DFF) pledge again today as you commute to and from work. Let’s be the positive example for others rather than continuing to be part of the problem.

Here’s a sample tweet that you can use for today, and any other day you’d like to take the pledge:

I care about #distracteddriving. I’m taking the Distraction Free Fridays pledge to put the device aside and focus on the drive. #DFF


I neglected to include in my original post that there is a ban on texting for all drivers in the state of Virginia.  Thanks to a Twitter tip, here’s more clarification on the legality of using an iPad and iPhone behind the wheel.

Andy White issued a public apology via the tweet pictured above that linked to an educational website from NHTSA. I appreciate that Andy acknowledged the error and in his response reinforced the importance of safe driving, in addition to his support for the pledge VW and Audi employees took this July. This was definitely an unfortunate lesson, but one I believe White understands now – as mentioned in this recent Mashable article – and one that we can all learn from as we take to the driver’s seat.

For more information about Be Car Chic‘s coverage on distracted driving please refer to the following posts:

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Melanie Batenchuk founded Be Car Chic in 2009 as a way to help consumers make smart decisions when buying and selling their cars. Her prior work at the dealership, trade association and manufacturer levels has provided her a deep understanding of the complex facets within the auto industry, making her a leading woman in her field.

There are 12 comments for this article
  1. Auto Trends Magazine (@theautowriter) at 9:49 AM

    Melanie, I am as astonished as you are. I wonder if Audi is aware of what happened? I’ve done my part my retweeting this article to my 4,230 followers. I also followed up with a #distracteddriving shout out.

    Keep up the good work — this issue is important to me too, something I will keep in front of my readers.

  2. Melanie Batenchuk at 10:06 AM

    Thank you for your ongoing support at Auto Trends Magazine. I truly appreciate everyone who stands with me in choosing to be part of the solution and no longer part of the problem.

  3. Shannon at 2:59 PM

    I have driven that stretch of road numerous times and it is frequently at a standstill. It is illegal to text and drive and potentially very dangerous. You have made your point, and I think everyone agrees with you. But trying to get this guy fired makes you look like an out-of-control do-gooder, and frankly makes me less sympathetic to your plight. Certainly no one blames Audi for a single tweet. Essentially calling for White’s head is an out of proportion reaction to the common (although potentially dangerous) behavior committed by millions of people on a daily basis. Singling out one individual makes you look like a serious bully and discredits you and your position.

  4. Melanie Batenchuk at 3:06 PM

    Shannon, thank you for your honest comments. Distracted driving has been a long-time campaign of mine; I mean to bring awareness to its dangers and how a fleeting moment could cost someone more than their job.