Painting your thumbnail red could save your life


Go ahead and ask Steve Babcock why he paints his thumbnail red -- it'll probably make his day.

The advertising professional from Boulder, Colo. has been sporting a ruby right thumbnail for a year now as a constant reminder to put his phone down while driving, a dangerous habit he was once guilty of committing regularly.

"I realized that my thumb was the only thing that stood between my eyes and my phone screen and that it would make the perfect canvas for a message or reminder [to put the phone down]," he tells Yahoo Canada Shine. "So I painted my thumbnail red to see if it would work. The results were flawless."

It's an old-school solution to a modern-day problem, but it worked. Soon his friends caught on to his trick, and they started doing it, too.

Together with his co-workers at the advertising agency Evolution Bureau, Babcock decided to take his trick one step further, and used their collective marketing skills to pull off a full-tilt social media campaign called Red Thumb Reminder to encourage others to start painting their thumbnails red.

"With zero marketing dollars, we've relied solely on the power of social media to get the word out about the movement," he says. "And so far, we've been amazed by the results."

The idea of painting just one thumbnail red doesn't sit well with everyone, but that's the point. The campaign is designed to get people's attention and spark a conversation. What could possibly be more effective than a dude rocking a crimson mani?

"The idea of painting your nail bright red is definitely odd for most guys," Babcock says. "But I have to say, I have been surprised by how many guys have taken to the idea and embraced its quirkiness."

And if red polish isn't your thing, no worries, says Babcock. Any colour -- or design -- will work, so long as it serves as a reminder for you to keep your eyes off your phone and on the road.

The need for such a reminder couldn't be more dire. CBC reports that distracted driving is now considered the "number one killer on the roads," with related accidents vastly outnumbering those caused by alcohol or speed.

Ontario recently increased its fine for distracted driving to as much as $1,000, double that of its previous amount, in response to the increasing number of cellphone-related car accidents.

That being said, the habit is still prevalent among drivers -- particularly young drivers -- so Babcock hopes his simple trick catches on, and becomes more than just a personal reminder.

"One of the coolest things about [Red Thumb Reminder] is that we hear from a lot of people who don't have the problem of using their phone behind the wheel, but they have painted their nail red to show their support and to elicit conversation from others," he says.

"We all share the roads. So this is an effort to get people talking about the idea."