Iowa’s Witty Digital Signs Seek to Prevent Distracted Driving
Iowa is deploying funny sayings on electronic billboards to discourage texting and other driver distractions, according to news reports. The state’s “Zero Fatalities” campaign features such sayings as “Get your head out of your apps; drive safely” to drive home the point that distracted driving is a bad idea, as Shellie Nelson writes for WQAD.com.
Vanessa Peng reports for KCCI.com that Iowa places a new clever message on the electronic signs above Highway 35 every Monday. The Iowa Department of Transportation (IDOT) has partnered with other states and groups in a campaign to reduce fatal car accidents to zero. Peng says the signs have been displaying these messages for a year now, such as: “Tailgating is for football not for highways,” or “Work zones, we don’t speed through your office.”
Peng quotes Steve Gent, of IDOT Traffic and Safety: “The more everybody starts thinking about it and realizing how dangerous driving is, they’ll start thinking about it as they’re driving and become safer drivers.” The campaign appears to be helping, Peng writes; in 2013 Iowa had 319 traffic deaths, the lowest number since World War II, and so far this year, the numbers are similar. The Zero Fatalities Iowa Facebook page says:
Distracted driving crashes are 100 percent preventable. You simply have to focus on driving and put everything else aside.
Some commenters to the KCCI.com article are concerned that the signs themselves might be distracting drivers. Julia Emley writes that she appreciates the wit of the messages, but she thinks they are “kind of distracting.” And Grant2014 writes:
Signs about paying attention to the road that are catching everyone’s attention away from it.
I’m fine with it. Just ironic.
A few weeks ago, The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration published a final report, “Research Review of Potential Safety Effects of Electronic Billboards on Driver Attention and Distraction.” The report suggests further research that is needed to plug holes in the existing data, such as determining whether young drivers and older drivers are more likely to be distracted by electronic bulletin boards and tri-vision signs, and if so, to what extent. The report also recommends that researchers examine the effects of mobile phones and in-vehicle infotainment displays and the ways that they might distract drivers in ways similar to electronic signs.
The national “Toward Zero Deaths” campaign’s mission is to create a “platform of consistency for state agencies, private industry, national organizations and others to develop safety plans that prioritize traffic safety culture and promote the national TZD vision.” Its Steering Committee is composed of the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators, the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the Governors Highway Safety Association, the National Association of County Engineers, and the National Association of State Emergency Medical Service Officials.