We’ve all been guilty of it at some point – getting distracted while driving, whether looking at our phone, grabbing something out of the passenger seat or stealing a glance into the back to see why the kids are squealing.
But we also know that distracted driving is dangerous. And thanks to a simple strategy by the Tennessee Department of Transportation, we are now privy to how many lives are lost every single day on the roadways of our home state.
This spring, TDOT began posting the fatality count on electronic message boards along interstates and highways. I remember the first day I saw that count; it was near the beginning of May. I believe the number was circling 300. I thought to myself how high that seemed so early in the year. As a Collierville resident who drives Downtown every weekday, I can’t help but pay close attention as that count inches up.
With each increase, I think about how old the person might have been. I wonder what led to the accident. I ask myself could it have been a child. And then I think of my own children. It’s the daily reminder that I need to stay focused on driving and not on attempting to retain my crown as the queen of multi-tasking.
My PR point is this: The State of Tennessee was experiencing an alarming rise in traffic fatalities in the first three months of this year, up about 28 percent from the first quarter of 2011, despite the state enjoying record-setting declines for the previous seven years. In 2011, 946 deaths was the lowest number recorded since 1962.
Something needed to be done to drive the safety message home. While TDOT may be involved in other efforts (both operationally and communication-focused in nature) to curb that increasing total, what I see is that number on the electric sign creeping up – and sometimes spiking – every day. And it makes an impact.
This message is simple, free to execute through existing technology and infrastructure and is always up-to-date. It is more effective than any traditional PSA campaign or news story could be. Most importantly, it keeps my eyes on the road so I’m not the next statistic on that board for someone to see and quietly lament.