Why safety campaigns are no place for sarcasm

Driving along I-44 recently I was greeted by a message from one of those digital sign boards arching over the highway. “Your steering wheel is not a hands-free device.” It warmed my heart to know that a few hundred thousand of my tax dollars have been invested to insult the public’s intelligence through mass notification. 

Sorry, did that sound sarcastic? If so, then enter the world of public safety public education. Along with threats, sarcasm seems to be a favorite of campaigns we used to call “public relations.” This begs the question what kind of relations do we want with the public? Apparently the classic golden rule equation of treating people the way we would want to be treated doesn’t apply. 

There’s the “Wear it or share it” poster that shows a seatbelt and an organ donor card. How about urging child safety seats by saying “belt your kid.” These are best placed far away from the “Stop Child Abuse” posters so that the humor doesn’t get too real. Just click it or ticket.

We really get rough on drinkers. What is a person who drinks and drives? A bloody idiot. If there’s a time that law enforcement pushes its badass image it’s with anti-drunk driving slogans. “Drive sober or get pulled over” or “Drive high, get a DUI” is always accompanied with a looming badge or trooper silhouette to imply the omnipresence of armed government agents. 

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