Recently, I viewed a new PSA that’s been making the rounds on the internet. I’ll bring it to you in the same context I found it: http://www.adweek.com/adfreak/uss-brutal-new-dont-text-and-drive-ad-will-leave-you-shaking-156828
This isn’t a revolutionary, or even a stand-out, scare tactic PSA. The sequence of events is predictable by now, and is sped through quickly to placate strained attention spans. As an additional note, the inclusion of a social media hashtag at the end somewhat baffles me, considering the intended message. Still, it brings up the question: are scare tactics in PSAs effective (especially for a younger audience)?
I am probably viewing this PSA outside of the intended context and my preparedness could have nulled the effect, but I have viewed similar PSAs with groups of people before. I have observed that most people respond in one of two ways: shock and a sense of fascination, or distress.
Young viewers recover quickly. Their steadfast ignorance to their own mortality guards them from fear and the teachable moment it intends to invoke. The sudden and often gruesome conclusion is simply surprising, and even grossly captivating as the moment is prolonged with graceful slow motion shots of forced deconstruction of bodies and vehicles. You can’t look away, and then... you can. Because you’re young. And that won’t happen to you.
Those who experience distress are usually older or have experienced a relatable situation, unlike the group I've described above.
The audience for this PSA appears to be teenagers and young adults: the immortal ones. So, why fight against a seemingly intrinsic trait of youth? I’m wondering if we can give something else a try.
Option 1: Take advantage of insecurities.
If we're willing to expose young viewers to such gruesome footage, I don't think preying on insecurities is out of the question. Appearances are a perpetual concern for teenagers and young adults, so let's point out just how stupid texting and driving looks. Aside from all morality, people look stupid aesthetically. Your chin is tucked back into your neck like a constipated turtle, your eyelids are lamely drooped over your downcast eyes, and you're crunched into an amateur contortionist pose from attempting to drive, text, and hide your failed and illegal multi-tasking. It's not a pretty picture.
Revealing the ugly truth might cause more people to hesitate and comprehend the dumb choice to text and drive.
Option 2: Bring back the essence of driving.
Driving is awesome. Getting your licence for the first time is like being granted freedom. It's a rite of passage. Then, somewhere along the way, we forget the sexiness and pleasure of having control over this huge metal machine that grants us the power to go anywhere. Driving turns into a mundane convenience.
I think we should reinvigorate that passion for driving. The second you step into your vehicle, you are given a free pass to escape all hassle and mediocrity. Picking up your phone is illegal, so you don't have to answer late-in-the-day work emails, calls from your cloying mother, or incessant texts from your ex. You can, to steal from the aforementioned video, just drive.
Option 3: Engineer responsibility.
Instead of making PSAs, the responsibility to have two hands on the wheel could be incorporated into a vehicle's design. Considering the rampant and often useless incorporation of sensor technology (I'm looking at you, public washroom toilets and paper towel dispensaries), can't we experiment with steering wheels that require two-hand functionality? There would be hurdles like accounting for driving maneuvers and complaints from angry long-haul truck drivers, but that could be worked through. Technology is smart enough to allow for a second-long reach to bump the turn signal, and complaints could be ignored unless they come from a place deeper than preference. Consequences for non-compliance would have to be sorted out as well, whether that is through forfeiting money to an automated ticket or an auto-pilot override that pulls you over.
Maybe this concept is impossible, or infeasible at the least. Maybe it puts into perspective just how easy it is to just put down your phone and drive responsibly.
These ideas all came up in the span of one conversation. They aren't perfect or thought through completely, but they're something different. I think the seriousness of this issue is owed more than the recycled scare-tactic PSA template. What do you think?
All the best,
EDIT: There's an Option 4!
Option 4: Let an app control your life.
Normally, I get quite agitated by apps controlling my actions. A phone shouldn't tell me when to exercise, for example. In this case, let an app help you out. Quite a few apps are out now that disable the text and call functions on your phone using various methods. Try it out!