Passing Zone

In the Land Where Zero Wins

Blog commentary by David Cullen, Executive Editor

August 24, 2017

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“Choose Your Ride” is literally a publicity vehicle. Wittily marked up by WisDOT as half State Patrol cruiser and half taxi, it’s an award-winning public-service ad warning against the danger and expense of drunk driving. Photo: Wisconsin DOT
“Choose Your Ride” is literally a publicity vehicle. Wittily marked up by WisDOT as half State Patrol cruiser and half taxi, it’s an award-winning public-service ad warning against the danger and expense of drunk driving. Photo: Wisconsin DOT

Travel with me now to The Badger State, or America’s Dairyland, if you prefer, a land of two Great Lakes, lush North Woods, rich farmland, solid cities, plentiful roads, and a state DOT determined to change the human culture around highway safety for the better.

Saying 588 people died on Wisconsin roads in 2016, the Wisconsin DOT is convinced that number can be brought way, way down. Not just by such-and-such a percentage, as numbers people tend to speak of, but right down to zero. Yes, to zero. As in zilch.

That goal is obvious by the very name of the innovative multimedia campaign—dubbed “Zero in Wisconsin”— that WisDOT is directing to drive down highway fatalities in the state.

Underscoring the need for the ongoing initiative, on Aug. 23, speaking at the Governor's Conference on Highway Safety in Appleton, David Pabst, the agency’s director of Transportation Safety, said traffic deaths are “right up there” as one of the top three causes of death in Wisconsin,  

He noted some good news — that alcohol-related car crashes have been reduced over the past 10 years — but contended that’s not enough to markedly reduce traffic deaths. Pabst said the state is seeing an increase in highway fatalities overall “because people are still not wearing their seat belt as much as they should, they’re not slowing down, they’re driving distracted, and they’re driving drowsy.”

On the program’s dedicated website, the WisDOT declares that, “In Wisconsin, our Zero Vision means that any preventable traffic death is one too many. By staying within the speed limit, being sober behind the wheel, and buckling up, you can do simple things that can turn nearly 500 annual deaths into zero.”

The website then lays out those “simple things” (none of which will be news to safety advocates). But what might pleasantly surprise truckers is that this effort is squarely aimed at changing the behavior, nay, the very thinking about safety, by motorists.

Over a half-dozen program areas are explained on the website, running the gamut from wearing seat belts to swearing off texting and avoiding other distractions to having no part in allowing drunk driving.

Among my favorite topics – that should be required reading for every four-wheeler (including yours truly) – is the section on “Speeding & Aggressive Driving.” After all, when you get right down to it, safety should not start in the milliseconds before an accident, but as soon as the ignition is engaged.

But hands-down the most compelling element of “Zero in Wisconsin” is the array of video- and audio-based “safety spots” that have been created to support the program’s praiseworthy goal. 

For distracted driving alone, there are almost a dozen video clips, including TV spots, and almost two dozen audio files that address different aspects of this safety issue. A range of clips have been put together to support WisDOT’s message about each safety concern. 

All are professionally produced; the one that grabbed me the most was about drunk driving and showed starkly what you will go through if a police officer pulls you over and asks that you take a “field sobriety test.” 

According to WisDOT, these TV and radio spots, some of which have won awards, aim to raise awareness of the campaign “while helping Wisconsin residents understand that by making simple changes in their driving behavior, they can make a big difference in helping to turn over 500 annual deaths into zero.”

What’s more, the agency makes this simple yet potentially impactful request: “Please take some time to view and listen to these safety messages, as well as to send this link to family and friends, in order to help us to achieve Zero in Wisconsin!”

And zero in every state.

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Author Bio

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David Cullen

Executive Editor

Executive Editor David Cullen comments on the positive and negative factors impacting trucking – from the latest government regulations and policy initiatives coming out of Washington DC to the array of business and societal pressures that also determine what truck-fleet managers must do to ensure their operations keep on driving ahead.

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