Head bobbing, car swerving, one hand on the wheel, the other on a cell phone.
From neighborhoods to freeways, texting and driving has become all too common in the United States. Millions of brazen motorists text and drive every day, testing the laws of chance and putting every driver on the road in peril.
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, more than 3,000 Americans die from distracted driving every year. Thousands of others suffer serious and traumatic injuries. This is no surprise when you consider texting and driving makes a crash up to 23 times more likely.
As this issue has gained steam in recent years, many have been waiting for the government to strengthen its stance against texting and driving. The public sector already invests millions in its “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” and “Click It or Ticket” campaigns. How can it be so lax about an issue that’s just as dangerous and even more prevalent?
It appears that’s about to change.
On Monday, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) will roll out the first federally funded campaign against texting and driving. The $8.5 million “U Drive. U Text. U Pay.” campaign is headlined by a bold new commercial that shows, in gruesome detail, the grave dangers of texting and driving.
The 30-second spot features three young adults – two girls and one boy – driving in a residential area on a sunny afternoon. Midway through the commercial, the female driver receives a text. While reaching for her phone to respond, she blows through a stop sign and gets crushed by a truck.
The graphic commercial shows the car skipping down the road like a rock on a pond, glass shattering, carnage from the vehicle spraying everywhere. The commercial ends with the tattered car sitting on the side of an eerily quiet road, no sign of movement from the passengers in sight, along with the following slogan:
“If you’re texting, you’re not driving.”
The commercial successfully captures the dangers of texting and driving, showing in grisly detail how suddenly one’s life can change. Even the third and fourth time, the commercial remains difficult to watch. You almost worry viewers will change the channel, a la those animal cruelty commercials featuring Sarah McLachlan. But it’s worth the risk.
According to a study, 75 percent of teens say texting and driving is common among their friends. Any action that promotes awareness and convinces drivers to keep their phones out of arm’s reach is worth the investment.
The NHTSA catches a lot of flak, and rightfully so. But you’ve got to hand it to the agency and its marketing team, The Tombras Group, for declining to play it safe and delivering a campaign that matches the intensity and severity of this issue.
Alex Altman is a freelance copywriter from Detroit, MI. Check out his work at www.aawrites.com, or drop him a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.