InTrans / Jan 26, 2016

Iowa DOT campaigns to end traffic fatalities

Go! Magazine

Seat beltsposted on January 26, 2016

How has Star Wars been used to decrease the number of people killed in vehicle crashes on Iowa roads?

As of Thursday, December 31, 2015—New Year’s Eve—the number of fatalities reached 318, only one more than the all-time low of 317 fatalities in 2013. In comparison, during this time last year, the number was still at 320 fatalities.

With the belief that the only number acceptable is zero, the Iowa Department of Transportation (Iowa DOT) created Zero Fatalities, a multi-media program implemented on Iowa’s high-traffic roadways.

By relaying its message of traffic safety in many forms to the drivers of Iowa’s roads since the program’s inception in June 2014, the Iowa DOT is using every tool at its disposal, which includes something known as “Message Monday.”

Message Monday

Often seen on Interstate 35 (I-35) electronic message boards, Message Monday promotes safety subtly.

Example Message Monday
Example Message Monday.
Courtesy of the Iowa Department of Transportation.

In the weeks leading up to the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the Iowa DOT incorporated Star Wars-themed messages like “Texting and Driving Leads to the Dark Side.”

However, some Message Monday messages are not so subtle and lighthearted. When they are not going for a laugh or smile, the message boards are set to display the current number of annual road fatalities.

For example, Iowans driving to see the new Star Wars at their local theater on December 18, 2015, using I-35, would have seen that the count had surpassed 300.

The main subjects of these messages come from prevention factors identified from common crash causes. These factors include slowing down, focusing on the road, driving sober, and buckling up. The people behind Zero Fatalities create new messages every Monday to be seen by drivers for the rest of that week.

As much as commuters may enjoy these weekly memos, Message Monday isn’t always Zero Fatalities’ most reliable option for educating drivers on safety. Since these messages share the same electronic message boards as amber alerts or winter storm warnings, they are not consistently on display.

Prohm, Ferentz, and Jacobson

Zero Fatalities believes in marketing its message to every driver on Iowa’s roads, whether they be young teens or mature adults. The Iowa DOT, and the people behind its media program, believe every crash is preventable. And they believe every driver to be capable of preventing these crashes.

Their newest media effort uses various coaches from Iowa’s three central colleges to inform drivers of crash prevention factors. University of Iowa football coach Kirk Ferentz, Iowa State University men’s basketball coach Steve Prohm, and University of Northern Iowa men’s basketball coach Ben Jacobson have all joined the effort.

Hear what they have to say by visiting the YouTube channel “Zero Fatalities in Iowa” at

Remember: Drive sober, buckle up, don’t text and drive, stay alert, and pay attention to the speed limit. And “may the force be with you.”

By Alex Larson, Go! Intern

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