Redefining “Driving Under the Influence”

According to the World Health Organization 1.24 million people were killed on the world’s roads in 2010. In the United States the number is 32,885. That’s not a typo even though we wish it was. This is a big number, representing a truly staggering and profound loss of life. The number of people injured on the road is exponentially higher. Who amongst us doesn’t know someone who was killed or seriously injured in an automobile crash?

At Citysteets we have always seen our role as not pointing out problems but coming up with solutions.

We started in NYC when Giuliani was mayor; the crime rate was going down but the streets were more dangerous than ever and we wanted to change that.

It took ten years, a new mayor, and a capable transportation commissioner, for the ideas that we were told were unfeasible to become official NYC DOT policy. Pedestrian deaths and injuries are at record lows and public space is no longer thought of as the exclusive domain of the automobile. NYC is experiencing what can be described as a streets renaissance.

With our work in NYC at least partially done, we wanted to shift our focus to a broader national issue that we have been thinking about for years, that deserves our brand of activism leading to cultural, behavioral and policy change.

We have a thesis that we think can substantially reduce road deaths that we would like to start a conversation about with you, with people in industry, with academics and with policy makers because 32,885 yearly road deaths is unacceptable, and if we can do something to reduce this number and the countless injuries beyond the fatalities, we should.

Our thesis is going to require some change in how we do things. It might make some people uncomfortable. It will ask other people to take responsibility where currently they haven’t had to. And there is even a chance that we are wrong, that the research we need to happen won’t support our idea. But here’s the thing, considering the stakes, don’t we have to find institutions that can take on this research? Don’t we have to do everything we can to reduce this unacceptable and profound loss of life and well being?  We think so.

We think that the reason that there are so many road deaths is that dangerous driving is ingrained and accepted as part of our culture. Starting with movies, advertising and now YouTube. By the time someone is ready to get their license they have been exposed to–no make that bombarded with–hundreds of thousands of images of reckless and dangerous driving that society says in no uncertain terms is acceptable, seems fun, and despite the fine print, is encouraged.

We’ve created a television spot that we would like you to watch, think about and act upon. Here is what we would like to see happen: We would like to see advertising agencies, creative and marketing professionals make a pledge to not show dangerous and unsafe driving in automobile commercials as part of their business practices. We would like automobile marketing executives to make the same pledge and no longer associate their brand with reckless and dangerous driving. We would like Google to remove videos that celebrate dangerous, reckless and stunt driving from YouTube. We would like academic institutions to start studying the correlation between received messages and behavior specific to driving culture. We would also like individuals to write to their car companies in support of removing dangerous and reckless driving as depicted in automobile advertising as part of their branded communications  (we have built a mechanism into our site to make that happen) and we would like individuals to take a personal safe driving pledge. We would like people to use their social media networks to tell others about this campaign designed to save lives, and keep us all safer on our shared roads.

We think if this is done, in one generation we will have a nation of much safer drivers, fewer road deaths, and collision related injuries. We understand that this is a national experiment for safety. We think that this experiment is both overdue and worth conducting.



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  • Driver can not see kids standing in front of car.
    Driver can not see kids standing in front of car.
  • No accommodation for pedestrian during sidewalk construction
    No accommodation for pedestrian during sidewalk construction
  • Improperly placed and maintained signs sends the wrong message to drivers.
    Improperly placed and maintained signs sends the wrong message to drivers.