NHTSA’s Twitter campaign to stop distracted driving

Distraction behind the wheel still kills about 3,000 people a year in the US, and injures 431,000 more. Now, the National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA) is trying what so many denizens of the Internet do when frustrated: It’s trolling. Its targets are Twitter users who admit to, joke about, or don’t adequately denounce texting and driving.

The usually buttoned-up NHTSA social team has been reprimanding offenders on Twitter for three years now, but keeps its trolliness to April, which for the last six years it’s branded as Distracted Driving Awareness Month. Distracted driving encompasses all sorts of behaviors, but NHTSA’s social media campaign targets phone use because it’s especially dangerous, pulling your visual, manual, and cognitive attention away from the road.

NHTSA’s clearly focused on the youths. It also made a Snapchat filter available last week (for people to use when they’re not behind the wheel). It wasn’t as popular as the Twitter campaign currently is, but the team’s inundation of social media has a good shot at reaching young drivers. Whether those drivers take the message seriously is unclear, but so far they’ve been liking and retweeting the NHTSA’s digital finger-wagging.

If NHTSA could get through to them, the roads would be a lot safer. When it comes to car crashes, teens are more likely to be distracted than members of any other age group. Sending warnings to the phones glued to their faces could be the best way to change their behavior. The Twitter shame campaign is scheduled to end April 30, but the dangers of distracted driving won’t. And if the fear of getting burned by a government official doesn’t stop you from picking up your phone while driving, the odds of getting in a deadly car accident should.

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