Guest Post by: Emily Buchanan
We all know the dangers of texting whilst driving, so why do so many people continue to do it? In 2011 it was revealed that twenty-one percent of all traffic accidents – 1.1 million crashes a year – occur when people use their cell phones at the wheel. That’s a harrowing statistic, and one that’s grown year-on-year since cell phones became a commodity item.
At a conference last year, Transportation Secretary Ray Lahood called texting and driving a “national epidemic,” urging for stricter police enforcement and higher profile publicity campaigns against distracted driving. Despite his efforts and the soaring insurance premiums for those caught texting at the wheel, every single day 11 teenagers lose their lives to distracted driving. The fatalities don’t seem to be abating.
So can a new inventive by a bunch of artists called TextsWreck spread awareness of these dangers? Yes, says designer Nick Cade, who thinks that a text is the perfect way to spread the message.
“We couldn’t think of a better place to put our message than in people’s text bubbles,” Cade says, “So we created the world’s first text against texting and driving and animated it using a language we all text in — emoji.”
The animated emoji, which can be seen in this Vimeo video, features a car crashing into a cyclist, a dog and another vehicle before both burst into flames and two ghosts sticking out their tongues ascend into heaven. According to TextsWreck, their “resident emoji expert” made sure the animation told the story perfectly – despite the fact that it all seems a little trivial.
After all, let’s not forget the enormity of the issue we’re talking about here, not to mention how many deaths have been caused and how many families have been affected by distracted driving. Bearing that in mind, the cutesy ghosts come across as insensitive – and that’s not to mention the mega paradox of sending a preventative text message when texting is the very thing you’re trying to prevent.
Just as the Coordinator for Streetwise Media’s In One Instant Teen Safe Driving Program, Bradley Bermont, writes so eloquently in the Huffington Post this week, it’s incredibly difficult to get teenagers to respond to statistics and campaigns that are not peer-driven or emotionally stimulating. “For me,” writes Bermont, “it took two hospital visits and a funeral to learn not to text and drive. Teens think they’re invincible until something proves them wrong – I know I did.”
Whilst TextsWreck’s heart is in the right place, this campaign is misguided. The mission to end distracted driving is not going to be enabled by an animated emoji. Sure, texting is an effective mode of discourse in modern day society, but it’s also the very dialogue that causes so many preventable crashes. Why exacerbate the issue with another text message, with another distraction?