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Graphic new U.K. public service ad target texting while driving

Jordana Divon
Shine On
August 20, 2012

How many people need to die before we get the message?

That seems to be the question posed by London-based ad agency Blue Hive in their new campaign that tackles the dangers of texting and driving.

The campaign, shot by award-winning photographer, James Day, features a series of four young people lying dead in a morgue freezer. Each face has been superimposed with a type of "frowny face" emoticon, while the ad copy incorporates popular texting lingo such as, "Was that txt worth it?" and "Dying 2 snd a reply?"

Twenty digital posters will go up over the Greater London area as part of a Don't Text and Drive campaign, initiated by Brake - a charity devoted to road safety.

The startling posters can't come too soon. Despite countless stories of drivers who have died while texting, people continue to endanger their lives — and the lives of others — by texting on the road.

In Canada, distracted driving ranks as Canadians' top concern, with statistics from CAA revealing that someone who is driving while texting is 23 times more likely to get into an accident than someone who keeps their phone in their bag.

Also, 99.4 per cent of drivers polled by Manitoba CAA claim they've seen someone texting and talking while behind the wheel. This despite Canada's widespread cellphone ban while driving.

Shock value

Like anti-smoking campaigns that place graphic, disturbing images of lung cancer patients on cigarette boxes, the hope is that the unsettling imagery in the Blue Hive series will stick in the minds of text-prone drivers before they pick up that phone to impulsively key in a reply.

The decision to use young people is deliberate for that reason — not just because today's multitasking, hyper-connected youth are more likely to pull out their smartphones on the road, but also from a misguided sense that death or injury is the furthest thing from their orbit.

The most recent story to hit headlines involves a 21-year-old college student who learned a very hard lesson in how quickly that can change.

Chance Boothe had just typed, "I need to quit texting because I could die in a car accident" to a friend when he lost control of his truck and careened into a 35-foot ravine.

Luckily, he survived.

It's not just about you

In the series' most unsettling image, a young girl well below the legal driving age lies flat out on a freezer tray.

It implies that her life was snuffed out by another driver who just couldn't wait a few extra minutes to hit reply.

Driver distraction is responsible for 4 million collisions in North America each year. In British Columbia alone, that amounted to 104 fatalities in 2010.

Speaking their language

The well-known text lingo will hopefully get the message across by speaking to smartphone users in familiar language.

Even if they recall one of the posters when using a word like "snd" or "txt" the campaign will have been effective.

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