Highway officials must get back to basics

June 3, 2014

Last year, we had zombies.

State officials from the Office of Highway Safety paid thousands of dollars to an advertising firm that hired actors to dress up as zombies for its “Don’t Join the Walking Dead” campaign. The zom­bies were supposed to draw attention to the importance of using crosswalks.

This year and to some extent last year, the same office has spent hundreds of thousands of federal dollars to put “Buckle Up” and “Click it or Ticket” signs on NASCAR vehicles that raced at Dover Downs over the weekend, and even more to sponsor a race.

As a newspaper, the Cape Gazette under­stands and endorses the role sponsorships and advertising play in informing the public and influencing public opinion.

But even if people actually saw last year’s zombies or noticed the slogans on NASCAR vehicles, advertising over a short time before a limited audience will likely have no lasting influence on public behavior.

Using crosswalks and seat belts are simple acts all of us can do to make our roads safer.

Still, according to the office of Highway Safety, Delaware’s rate of seat belt use is 92 percent, well above the national average – which is 86 percent.

Does it really make sense to spend hun­dreds of thousands of dollars in an effort to reach the 8 percent of Delawareans or the 14 percent of out-of-state drivers who still won’t buckle up?

While safety officials are spending lav­ishly to reach people who won’t use seatbelts, people who do buckle up are dying on Cape Region roads, where the most common factor in fatal crashes appears to be speed.

To be fair, the agency sponsored the “Drive Sober 150” truck race last September, a cam­paign aimed at curbing drunk driving.

Still, state officials must stop wasting state and federal taxpayer money on frivolous campaigns that have no measurable effect on public behavior.

It’s time to get back to basics. Use highway safety dollars to remind drivers to slow down – and on enforcement to ensure everyone gets the message.

  • Cape Gazette editorials are considered and written by members of the Cape Gazette editorial board which includes Dennis Forney, publisher; Trish Vernon, editor; Dave Frederick, sports editor emeritus; Laura Ritter, news editor; Jen Ellingsworth, associate editor; and Nick Roth, sports editor.

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