Ad Campaign Grabs For Public's Attention
Friday, March 7, 2008
The driver hits the brakes while his passenger screams in horror at what is about to take place. Tires screech, but it's too late. The man in blue jeans is slammed by the car while crossing the street, his head about to hit the windshield.
Officials are hoping that a drawing of that scene -- to be posted on Metrobuses and shelters -- will put a sharper focus on the life-or-death issue of pedestrian safety. A month-long advertising campaign, kicking off this week, will also feature radio ads in English and Spanish.
The "Street Smart" campaign is sponsored by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments and comes after recent increases in accidents involving pedestrians, including fatalities. It is more graphic than past efforts because of the need to grab people's attention, officials said.
"It's the edgiest, bluntest campaign we've had yet," said George Branyan, the pedestrian coordinator for the D.C. Department of Transportation, one of the partners in the project.
Five pedestrians were killed in Metrobus accidents last year, and the campaign includes reminders to passengers to be alert when getting off a bus. "Stay out of blind spots," one message states. "If you can't see the driver, they can't see you."
Area law enforcement and government leaders said the ad campaign will run through March, with the $400,000 cost picked up by various jurisdictions. Officials plan to promote the effort at a news conference today and will issue the findings of a study by Inova Fairfax Hospital of pedestrian accidents from 1994 through 2006.
The study found that on average more than 80 people die and 2,000 people are injured a year in pedestrian accidents in the Washington region. Maryland jurisdictions averaged 44 pedestrian fatalities a year over the 12-year period; Northern Virginia, 21; and the District, 16.
In addition to the ad campaign, officials said, police will be stepping up enforcement. Officers will be more aggressive about citing drivers who impede crosswalks or speed through pedestrian areas and about ticketing jaywalkers.
The ad's radio spots are as graphic as the drawings, with sounds meant to dramatize the suddenness and impact of a crash. Officials are targeting a young audience with those spots by running them on stations that feature rock and hip-hop music.
The campaign urges drivers to drive as if their lives depend on it. For pedestrians, it's "Cross like your life depends on it."
"The idea of the campaign is to get to the core of the issue. It's a life-and-death situation," said Jim McAndrew, vice president of Design House, the firm responsible for producing the ads.
D.C. Assistant Police Chief Patrick A. Burke said risks have increased in recent years because pedestrians and drivers are often distracted by cellphones and text-messaging. "We've got to get people's attention back on the road and the street," he said.
The challenge will be for jurisdictions to sustain the enforcement and awareness once the ads run their course.
"We haven't gotten angry about the number of people dying on our roadways," Burke said. "We can't tolerate any of these fatalities. These are preventable incidents."