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July 11, 2011
Sweet Reason Doesn't Always Work
 
Slogans alone aren't compelling enough to prompt Americans to drive safely. The threat of punishment needs to accompany highway safety urgings to get worthwhile results. That seems to be the message in highway safety campaigning, reports The Washington Post. "Buckle Up for Safety" doesn't work as well as "Click It or Ticket."

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood provided $400,000 for programs in Connecticut and New York to discourage cell phone use while driving. "Phone in One Hand, Ticket in the Other" was the pointed slogan, and more than 19,000 tickets were given to cell phone–using drivers in the two states. They produced "sharp declines in cellphone use behind the wheel, federal researchers found."

“The success of these pilot programs clearly shows that combining strong laws with strong enforcement can bring about a sea change in public attitudes and behavior,” said David L. Strickland, administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

So, we'd say, PR people need to be mindful that well-intentioned urgings alone don't always prompt behavior changes — and they need to be able to note such situations as they become apparent.

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Doug Bedell has a background in journalism and PR and is the owner of Resource Relations LLC in Central PA, focusing on organizational and crisis communication. He’s the community manager of SimplyFair.net, a social network on fairness. On the Web, Doug’s at www.ResourceRelations.com. On Twitter, he’s @DougBeetle.
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