The Pennsylvania Turnpike pleads with drivers to focus on the road, not cell phones (Focus is Key). It delivers that message on billboards.
The PA Turnpike campaign (tagline: “Delete the Distractions”) is the latest example of billboards as safety messengers. For decades, out of home ad displays have promoted seat belts, work zone safety, and sobriety.
The goal of the new multi-media campaign in Pennsylvania is to reinforce basic safety practices on the PA Turnpike such as reducing distraction, says the turnpike commission.
The Maryland Department of Transportation’s current campaign to fight aggressive driving is featured on billboards and gas station pump toppers (ADAPT).
Go Safely California, which includes pedestrian and bicycle safety, launched in December.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has used billboards as part of multi-media outreach for safe driving.
Pro-safety Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood (2009-2013) was alarmed by the number of distraction-related deaths, injuries, and property loss. His federal agency – borrowing tactics that changed behavior on seat belts and drunk driving – awarded grants to states to experiment with high-visibility enforcement to stop texting while driving, combined with media blitzes.
In Connecticut, the multi-media push included “digital billboards on major Hartford interstate freeways I-84 and I-91. The billboard message also ran at the XL Center, a sports and concert venue in downtown Hartford,” said a federal safety report published in 2014.
Did it work? Observed cell phone use declined 57 percent after the blitz in the Hartford area.