PEABODY, Mass. -- BMW is known for incorporating the latest technology to protect drivers and passengers, but starting this month, the automaker and its dealerships are asking drivers themselves to improve safety on the road by focusing more on driving and less on texting. BMW dealers including BMW of Peabody will add their support to a corporate-sponsored campaign of radio, print, television and Internet ads designed to expose the dangers of distracted driving.
BMW already preaches "Don't Txt & Drive" at its BMW Performance Center in Spartanburg, South Carolina, where it hosts its Teen Driving School using BMW 3 Series cars to teach car control to budding drivers. During the summer, BMW's safe-driving campaign will be rolled out to the more than 100 teen driving schools run by the BMW Club of America Foundation in the hope of reaching an impressionable and high-risk group of drivers. Teen texting behind the wheel is currently widespread, with 87 percent of teen drivers admitting to the behavior, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
"Anybody that drives in Massachusetts knows that distracted driving is a serious issue," said Marshal Cabot, general manager of Massachusetts BMW dealer BMW of Peabody. "Massachusetts has laws prohibiting texting while driving, but it's still prevalent. Younger drivers just don't recognize how dangerous it can be, so hopefully BMW's ad campaign will open some eyes."
Statistics from the United States Department of Transportation reveal that nearly 5,500 people died in crashes caused by distracted drivers in 2009, and distracted driving has become a cornerstone issue for U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, who has made it a priority to meet with automakers to discuss the issue.
BMW's television ad for the campaign has started circulating, featuring overprotective parents and pointing out how their efforts can be undone in an instant by answering a phone call or replying to a text while driving. Various print ads reproduce the view from a distracted driver's perspective, with one showing a phone preventing a driver from seeing a child running to catch a ball in the road. Participating websites will feature the phrase "Text Messaging Is Very Distracting" across their homepages in bold block letters, which should prove inconvenient enough to get BMW's point across.
BMW's commitment to end distracted driving reaches beyond the ad campaign. The German automaker is also designing its car interiors to help drivers keep their eyes on the road. Using data collected through pupilometry, which closely studies eye movements, BMW has been able to move important and commonly used controls and displays to areas that allow drivers to keep their attention on the road ahead.
"Automakers and drivers alike have a responsibility to fight distracted driving, and BMW is doing its part," Cabot added. "Every year, automakers are adding more features and displays, but they also need to stress that there are limits to multitasking while driving. Eliminating texting behind the wheel is a big step in the right direction."
All automakers tell buyers that their new models are the best in their segments, but not many want you to get a side-by-side comparison and decide for yourself. However, BMW dealers like BMW of Peabody are giving customers an opportunity to do just that during the BMW X3 Difference Event. On March 28 from 11:00 AM- 6:45 PM, interested drivers who preregister for the event can visit BMW of Peabody to test drive the new 2011 BMW X3 and take a competing model out on the road to see how they compare.
BMW expects those who take this unique comparison test drive to notice a clear difference when they are behind the wheel of the 2011 X3. Rather than simply describing the new SUV's features and advantages, this side-by-side comparison test will let buyers experience everything about the X3 that can't be described in a 30-second commercial. Every driver who takes delivery of a new X3 by June 30 will receive a gift card worth $500 toward BMW X3 accessories, like an iPhone Snap-in Adapter, Bicycle Lift System, Luggage Rack or Lockable Roof Box.
"It's a very bold idea that comes from a place of real confidence," said Marshal Cabot, general manager of BMW of Peabody. "Buying a new vehicle, especially a model like the X3, is a big decision, and it's not often that you get to drive a car and its competition back-to-back. It's an opportunity for Massachusetts BMW shoppers to make an informed decision before they buy, and at the end of the day it lets them feel confident that they made the right choice."
The highlight of driving the 2011 BMW X3 is its handling. While most SUVs tend to lose maneuverability due to their weight, the X3 stays agile with the help of a newly developed multilink rear suspension and a 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder direct-injection engine that pushes out 240 horsepower in the base xDrive281 trim. Those seeking more power can opt for the turbocharged xDrive35i, which adds 60 horsepower for more speed off the line.
The BMW X3 SAV (sports activity vehicle) comes equipped with xDrive intelligent all-wheel-drive, designed to detect slipping in individual wheels and direct power away from them to maximize traction in any situation. Along with ground clearance that has increased by half an inch since last year's model, xDrive helps to establish the X3 as a true off-road contender, with Off-Road magazine already naming it "Off-Roader of the Year."
"BMW wouldn't be putting drivers in competitors' SUVs if we weren't confident that the X3 provides a better driving experience," Cabot continued. "I think it's refreshing to see an automaker that has this much faith in its products. You don't do something like this unless you sincerely believe you've got the best vehicle in the segment."
Spaces are limited for the X3 Difference Event, so BMW of Peabody encourages customers to sign up for a preferred driving slot now. Drivers can register by visiting www.bmwusa.com/X3Difference or by calling 1-866-905-4BMW (4269).