Mayor Adams on Monday unveiled the city’s new effort to urge drivers to slow down and prevent fatal car crashes: a 30-foot-wide billboard in Brooklyn urging drivers to turn off the gas.
“Speed ruins lives,” says the ad, showing a pedestrian run over by a driver. “To slow down.”
The billboard – hung on the elevated subway tracks above Pennsylvania Ave. in East New York – part of a $4 million Department of Transportation advertising blitz aimed at discouraging reckless driving.
The ad campaign comes as at least 68 people have been killed by motorists on city streets so far this year – the most in the first five months of a calendar year since 2014, when the former Mayor Bill de Blasio launched his “Vision Zero” initiative aimed at reducing fatal accidents.
“Unfortunately, we have seen traffic violence increase dramatically over the past two years. It’s a real crisis,” Adams said. “This campaign will reach all five boroughs through advertisements and on television and radio, on billboards, buses, gas stations, throughout community and ethnic media…Wherever that you live, whatever language you speak, we are going to get the message across, that we are not going to tolerate lawlessness of any level and that includes vehicular accidents.
Trying to change motorist behavior is nothing new for the city’s Department of Transportation. Another municipal campaign released in late 2019 targeted men who drive large pickup trucks and SUVs, and asked them to be more careful when driving their heavy vehicles.
The background of the new billboard is gray and unattractive – and a study published last month by researchers at the University of Toronto suggests that could be a good thing. The study found that electronic highway signs that advertise the number of people killed in crashes may actually make streets less safe because drivers may be temporarily distracted.
Asked about the study, Adams said the purpose of the billboard “is not to contribute to a crisis”.
“We’re going to review the study, and we’re not going to do anything that would add to the number of crashes,” Adams said.