The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) has launched a safety campaign featuring public service announcements that look like commercials from the 1970s, complete with the mention of Beta and VHS tapes. Named “Hank’s How to Get Hit By a Car” series, the videos use humor to get viewers to pay attention to a serious topic, namely the need for pedestrians to be careful when crossing roads.
As CDOT writes in a press release:
Hank, the face of CDOT’s newest campaign, is an approachably sarcastic and unassumingly charming salesman pitching his eccentric video series on Beta and VHS in the form of a 1970’s infomercial. This 90-second video is accompanied by three supplemental 15-second videos offering unconventional pedestrian safety tips.
In Colorado, 65 pedestrians were killed and 293 injured in the state’s 1,453 pedestrian accidents, CDOT writes, and 55 of those killed were males. The new campaign targets young males, CDOT writes, especially online, with Hank teaching his viewers “patented moves” such as the “Texter Tuck & Roll,” the “Scotch & Soda Stumble” and the “I Could Care Less Crosser.”
The incidence of pedestrian crashes and fatalities is growing in Colorado, especially in urban areas, CDOT writes. Those deaths comprise about 10% of all road fatalities annually, CDOT writes.
The campaign features safety messages at the most dangerous intersections for pedestrians throughout the metropolitan Denver area, as a reminder of the laws pedestrians need to follow before crossing the street, CDOT writes. The visuals and safety messages are also being shown in Arapahoe and Douglas counties, in bus shelters, buses, and via movie trailers, in a partnership with Tri-County Health, CDOT writes.
Voice of Dissent
Not everyone is applauding this new campaign. David Sachs writes for StreetsBlog Denver that it is “tasteless.” The campaign’s star, “Hank,” tells viewers that the best ways to get killed or seriously injured while crossing a street are to use a phone or cross outside of a crosswalk, Sachs notes. However, there are many stretches of roadway where there are no crosswalks, he writes.
I wonder if Hank has ever tried navigating Colfax Avenue, Federal Boulevard, Sheridan Boulevard, or Colorado Boulevard — all state highways under CDOT’s jurisdiction — on foot. Take the section of Colfax Avenue from Colorado Boulevard to Cherry Street, for example: There’s a span of seven intersections with zero crosswalks.
Sachs asked CDOT traffic safety communications manager Sam Cole what pedestrians are supposed to do when there are so few crosswalks. “Does CDOT expect people to see their destination across the street and walk 20 minutes out of their way to get to it?” He writes that Cole responded: “To me that’s a safer approach than just throwing in the towel.”
The real reason that pedestrians and bicyclists get seriously injured and killed on Colorado’s road is because those roads were designed for cars to drive fast on, not for people to “safely navigate on foot,” Sachs writes. Instead of creating this campaign, CDOT could invest in urban highway designs that provide more safety for all who use them, Sachs writes. He wishes that the campaign targeted drivers, asking them to watch out for pedestrians or people using wheelchairs. Sachs writes that Cole responded: “We don’t have a direct campaign that says, ‘Drivers, be careful of pedestrians,’ because I think all drivers know they need to be careful about pedestrians.”
CDOT plans to run the pedestrian safety campaign during August, September, and October (Colorado Pedestrian Month), as those months have historically high fatalities. You can read about Colorado pedestrian laws and find safety tips here.
Here is one of CDOT’s Hank videos: