It’s Time to Own Colorado DOT’s #SafetyStartsWithAllOfUs Hashtag

Take over this absurd hashtag by attaching it to images and messages that show why safety actually starts when motorists stop speeding down streets while surfing the internet.

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The Colorado Department of Transportation loves what it calls “safety campaigns.” Here’s how they work: The department spends a few hundred thousand of your dollars broadcasting a message to “educate” the public, as CDOT puts it, on how not to die. It’s basically a big expensive marketing campaign to deflect public attention from CDOT’s own responsibility to make streets safer.

There’s zero evidence that these education campaigns work. Traffic deaths have risen every year, statewide, since 2011.

They’re completely tone deaf and consistently sends the message that people struck by motorists have no one to blame but themselves. Your teacher, as it were, may be an actor hired to make people on foot look like bumbling idiots with a death wish. Or a sign scolding people for having the gall to look at their phones while out in public. Or a mascot handing out balloons.

This month CDOT is schooling the public real good by telling us what to wear via its #SafetyStartsWithAllOfUs social media campaign.

Here’s what CDOT tweeted under a photo of two women walking at dusk — one wearing a neon jacket with reflective slap bracelets, and one sporting a dark gray fleece:

In other words, if you don’t wear Day-Glo colors, it’s your fault if a driver peels around a corner while you have a walk sign and sends you to the ICU. Motorists, carry on.

It’s an old, discredited message that lays responsibility at the feet of the most vulnerable people on the street. For a window into CDOT’s thinking, look back to 2015, when agency communications staffer Sam Cole told Streetsblog, “We don’t have a direct campaign that says, ‘Drivers, be careful of pedestrians,’ because I think all drivers know they need to be careful about pedestrians.”

CDOT’s come a long way since then! So far the #SafetyStartsWithAllOfUS campaign mostly tells pedestrians to “be seen” and bicyclists to wear helmets, but — but! — the heroes at CDOT have also tweeted that motorists should yield to pedestrians. Twice!

If CDOT actually believes these campaigns move the needle, it should be doing a lot more to educate motorists. Drivers are the ones operating machines that killed 630 people last year. They’re the ones surfing the internet while speeding down public streets in two-ton metal boxes.

Safety does not start with everyone. Safety starts with motorists. So let’s take over CDOT’s #SafetyStartsWithEveryone hashtag and get a real safety message across instead of another counterproductive, canned PR campaign.

Satirical car enthusiast Bob Gunderson has given this alternative education campaign a kick start:

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Here’s how Piep van Heuven, Bicycle Colorado’s Denver director, flipped the script:

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Go ahead. Get on Twitter and Facebook and own this absurd hashtag — attach it to images and messages that show why safety actually starts with motorists speeding down streets, not people walking and biking.

  • TakeFive

    It wasn’t that long ago that my son tried to gently tell me that now that my hair has turned from brown to grey that I would look a lot better in navy or black instead of the day-glow colors I was wearing. I patiently explained to him that returning safely from my walk so that I would live another day to hug my grandchildren was more important than looking good.

    In the last ten days I ran into a lady who wanted to be neighborhood friendly. After a little friendly I suggested she was crazy. Because of wearing dark jeans, shirt anda shoes I could have walked right by her and hardly noticed. With drivers this is magnified since drivers are more eye-trained (like a muscle memory) to look for hulking objects.

    I’ve got my own gospel to preach and I intend to continue trying to save lives my way but to each his own.

    • Sure, everyone should protect themselves.

      But do we REALLY need to turn the conversation from “you are legally required to drive in a way that is not a threat” to “here’s 15 ways to go beyond any sort of requirement you have to protect yourself”?

      Turns out there’s NOTHING you can wear that will protect you from all drivers.

      • TakeFive

        Turns out that despite urging from CDOT and many others that some will still drive drunk and/or drugged, speed and drive recklessly and in fact these things are all crimes yet it happens every day sadly.

        It’s also not a good thing to walk down the middle of the road especially wearing dark clothing since there’s a very good change you’ll end up dead. Y’all can debate who or what is responsible but regardless it won’t bring the dead guy back to life.

        • Think of all the time and money MADD wasted when they should have just warned everyone to #WalkLikeANinja.

          • TakeFive

            Believe it or not I wasn’t familiar with ‘Walk Like a Ninja’ so I watched a video. Now I know.

            MADD has been significantly influential where I live now (Phoenix) as Arizona has some of the strictest DUI laws in the country. It makes a difference. Problem is that with nearly five million people and bars aplenty it’s a never ending challenge.

          • Well, I meant “move with inhuman hyperawareness at all times”, which would be the best way for every pedestrian to protect themselves, but isn’t…human.

            We ought to tell MADD to give up trying to change attitudes and make drivers responsible and accountable for their actions, we should just urge pedestrians to assume responsibility, right?

        • SF_Abe

          “Y’all can debate who or what is responsible”

          The. Driver. Is. Responsible.

          • TakeFive

            Flawed though it may be we have the best legal/court system in the world (IMO) so I always defer to those that are much smarter than I am. Still, there’s certainly room for improvement.

          • SF_Abe

            “so I’ll assume responsibility for what I can control.”

            Great! Keep that in mind next time you get behind the wheel.

  • TakeFive

    BTW, I did forget to mention I do enjoy Bob Gunderson’s War on Cars and in fact have posted a few of his videos here in the past. Not sure if anybody knew who he was at the time? 🙂

  • Andy S

    I’m trying to find clothing bright enough to make drivers look up from their phones. Any suggestions?

    I’m guessing it would need flashing red and blue lights.

    • Camera_Shy

      Maybe something so bright it is loud. 😉

  • Michael

    While walking, I wear bright clothing, carefully look right & left before crossing, never use headphones, and never use my phone…. yet drivers seldom slow down – let alone yield – when I am in crosswalk, even when I am in the center of the road clearly in the act of crossing.

    We have a vehicular bullying crisis in America. I wish wearing bright clothes made walking our streets safe, but it simply doesn’t.

    • Harbor Freight sells Dayglo Orange deadblow hammers that are remarkably visible to oncoming drivers, as long as they are on the side facing drivers. You would be amazed at how much space I get while carrying one.

      • mh

        Good upper body workout, too.

  • Lastchance

    Inconsiderate motorcycles, no more turn signals being used by cars (never by mc’s), and my insurance premiums went up 10% on a squeaky clean driving record due to density and frequency of accidents. I’m over transplants coming to Colorado and screwing the rest of us. This great state is ruined.

  • Spifford

    “We don’t have a direct campaign that says, ‘Drivers, be careful of pedestrians,’ because I think all drivers know they need to be careful about pedestrians.”

    I would say that’s exactly wrong. For the first decade of driving I was convinced that cars always had the right of way and that you’re suicidal to think you can walk into the street and cars will stop for you.

    Looking around at the way everybody drives just made for great confirmation bias.

    It wasn’t until a decade later when I started biking and taking transit a lot that I learned about all the laws that drivers break on every block and how people, not cars, have the right of way.

    It will take forcibly slowing down cars before people can be safe.

  • Camera_Shy

    Whenever I wear my day-glow yellow jacket and my black and white bike
    helmet while riding my yellow bike that has black and white trim I
    notice drivers slam on their brakes when they first see me.

    I get
    that if drivers are not looking then it does not matter what I am
    wearing – I am not any safer – but I also recognize that anything I can
    do to increase a driver’s ability to see me (when they do look) is a
    step toward saving my own life.

    Sometimes the bright colors I
    wearcatch their eye and they slam on the brakes. It might be that they
    think I am a cop or something. Once they realize I am not law
    enforcement, then they continue driving as they were, but at least
    they’ve seen me.

    The hashtag itself does not put the burden
    solelyon cyclists or peds so, yeah, flood it with sayings that put the
    driverfirst when it comes to safety. But I wouldn’t discount the fact
    that the hashtag can also be used to inform people of ways to increase
    their own chances to live – some people were never taught that,
    apparently. I agree: even though peds/cyclists were not taught this the
    driver is still responsible for killing them, and it should be stated as
    such.

    Suggesting ways for people to take responsibility is different than saying the driver is not at fault.

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