Watch: Shocking Ad Targets Distracted Drivers

The AT&T campaign seeks to scare people from the dangerous practice.

ByABC News
July 21, 2015, 12:11 PM

— -- A new ad campaign is attempting to scare drivers off their cellphones when they are operating their vehicles.

As part of its It Can Wait campaign, AT&T has produced the commercial.

The ad reveals an everyday scene. A boy riding his bike; a man chatting, hands-free, on his drive home; a woman watering a lawn; and a mother traveling in a car with her daughter in the backseat.

Then the mother takes her eyes off the road, for a second, to check social media on her phone. In that moment, her car clips the man's truck, traveling in the opposite direction, and goes flying into the air.

The ad is a shocking reminder of what is at stake when people drive while distracted.

"It is a powerful ad," said Jonathan Adkins, the executive director of the Governors Highway Safety Association. "When you look at it, you can identify with someone in your own family. It hits you pretty hard."

At any moment during daylight hours, according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, more than 600,000 people are using a cellphone while driving — that's about one in 10 drivers — and that has led to more than 3,000 deaths attributed to distracted driving, according to National Occupant Protection Use Surveys.

In March, researchers at the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety analyzed almost 2,000 videos from cameras mounted in vehicles that captured the actions of teen drivers in the moments right before an accident. The foundation found that distractions were a factor in nearly 60 percent of the moderate to severe teen crashes studied.

And on Saturday, state troopers from six states including Kentucky, Michigan and Pennsylvania said they would be participating in the 6-State Trooper Project, targeting distracted drivers this week in an attempt to draw attention to the dangerous practice.

Adkins said campaigns like AT&T's did make a difference.

"We have looked at a number of different states and there has been a reduction in the number of crashes," Adkins told ABC News. "It makes you think [about] what you are doing and then you couple that with enforcement and tough laws and it does impact driver behavior."

In addition to a free app called DriveMode, which silences text message alerts on cellphones when a person is driving, AT&T has also released a virtual reality app called It Can Wait that shows a person what happens when they are driving and are distracted by the cellphone.

Adkins said the new ad by AT&T was a "wake-up call."

"We are making progress and ads like this go a long way in raising the public awareness," he said.

ABC News' David Kerley contributed to this story.