Case Study: New York City Department of Transportation
Historically, New York City’s streets and sidewalks are some of the busiest in world – and among the most dangerous. In 2014 alone, 4,000 people were seriously injured and more than 250 were killed in car crashes. On average, vehicles seriously injured or killed a New Yorker every two hours. For children and seniors especially, being struck by a vehicle is deadly — in fact it’s the leading cause of injury-related death for children under 14.
At the beginning of his first-term, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio embraced the Vision Zero initiative, an international road safety program designed to reduce the number of traffic fatalities and serious injuries to zero. The NYC Department of Transportation chose Burson-Marsteller as their strategic partner to drive behavior change among drivers — particularly males, 30 to 50 years of age — as they accounted for 80% of pedestrian deaths and injuries.
Safe driving is a choice a driver can make. And it’s those dangerous choices drivers make behind the wheel — whether a failure to yield or speeding — that are a primary or contributing factor in 70% of pedestrian deaths. Even inattention, another moment of decision, can be deadly on city streets.
To influence behavior change, we focused on those poor choices drivers make behind the wheel — and the often shocking consequences of those decisions. During the first phase of our campaign, these executions framed our concept of drivers’ choices.
In the second phase of the campaign, we recognized that city driving was changing with increased congestion from ride hailing services and cycles. Our messaging evolved to acknowledge the many challenges City drivers face, while continuing to remind them of the personal responsibility they have to drive safely. Second phase campaign executions showed everyday New Yorkers holding street signs and reinforced the idea that drivers are not the villains — and that they should see in each road sign the people they are protecting through safe driving.
The comprehensive campaign appeared in owned, earned and paid media, across multiple platforms including digital, mobile, social, out-of-home and broadcast. Sponsorship of local professional sports teams, both in-stadium and on the radio, helped campaign messages reach male drivers. To reach beyond English speakers, culturally relevant versions of creative were also developed for Hispanic and Asian audiences.
2017 was a milestone year for New York City streets — marking the lowest fatality and accident numbers in over 100 years, including a 32% decline in pedestrian fatalities. This was in stark contrast to national fatality trends, which increased 15% over the same time period.
Statistically, New York City has become the safest pedestrian city in the world. And despite the congestion in the city increasing, traffic fatalities have moved in the opposite direction. This trend has continued into 2018, with the first half of the year setting a new record for the fewest number of traffic fatalities ever recorded during this time period.