We all know “click it or ticket” — the successful public service campaign aimed at encouraging folks to wear their seat belts. We’re also very familiar with the sobering slogan: “drive hammered — get nailed” designed to remind drivers of the dire consequences of drinking and driving.
While the motivation imbedded in the “put it down” campaign is certainly worthy of a its own memorable catchphrase, we believe that targeting cell phone use while driving dramatically oversimplifies the level of distraction drivers encounter as they try to navigate our busy roadways.
If our simple and non-scientific study of commuter behavior is any indication, we don’t believe for one moment that merely putting down the cell phone goes far enough to significantly alter inappropriate driver behavior.
In fact, there’s no better example of our society’s propensity toward multi-tasking than the flurry of activity exhibited by many of us sitting behind the wheel of a moving vehicle. Along with those enjoying their breakfast and a morning cup of coffee, we also observe drivers reading, watching television, applying makeup and (illegally) talking on the telephone while driving. That doesn’t even take into account those who were wearing iPod headphones, transporting screaming children or fiddling with their radios.
If that weren’t enough distraction, there’s also an onslaught of competition for our attention taking place outside of the vehicle as well.
Take for example the emerging political sign waving phenomenon that places exuberant campaigners in busy intersections during heavy commute times. Are they kidding? Do they realize that it’s dark out there and rush-hour drivers have enough to worry about without someone standing on a rain slick roadside frantically waving a political sign at them as they pass? Frankly, we feel the same way about pizza air guitar guy, costumed gorilla man, car wash supporter, ever-present panhandler and model-home sign spinner. They all need to back away from the curb before someone is seriously injured.
Also competing for driver attention is the ever evolving landscape of posted notices, dancing air puppets and attention grabbing electronic signs.
Given the potentially deadly consequences, we believe a lot more should be done to address driver distraction. While we’re cheering the effort to address cell phone use in vehicles, the “put it down” campaign needs a lot of work and perhaps a much broader scope before it obtains official status in our meaningful slogan Hall of Fame. Whatever happened to the classic wisdom of keeping your “eyes on the road” and “both hands on the wheel”?