To call attention to the problem of drowsy driving, the Iowa Department of Transportation (IDOT) now includes reminders about the dangers of driving drowsy on its 80 variable message signs located on highways across the state. Six days a week the signs are blank, unless an emergency message is posted to warn motorists about traffic delays or approaching storms. At the start of every new work week, the signs convey a three-line safety message – part of its now three-year-old Message Monday series – followed by the number of traffic fatalities in Iowa year-to-date. They are intentionally kept short and only posted once a week to catch motorists’ attention.
A drowsy driving message posted in mid-February asked, Winter blues? Do not snooze while you cruise. “We do not want [a message] to be mundane,” said the IDOT traffic safety engineer who leads the six-member Committee tasked with creating them. “We want it to resonate with drivers and spark conversation. If someone is passionate enough to talk about it in their car or to someone else, maybe they will get on their computer and dig a little further.” That is why IDOT’s Transportation Matters blog discusses each Message Monday posting and offers additional information. The drowsy driving installment included NSF tips along with a link to an AAA video discussing the warning signs of drowsy driving and how to prevent it.
IDOT has conducted studies to ensure that the signs are not causing delays or crashes resulting from distracted drivers. Motorists have also called IDOT expressing appreciation for a particular message and to offer suggestions, all of which are considered by the committee.
Statewide Summit & Hy-Vee Partnership
In June 2016, the Governor’s Traffic Safety Bureau (GTSB) convened a statewide drowsy driving summit at the University of Iowa. Traffic safety practitioners, law enforcement, elected officials, community and business partners, and researchers, were joined by the NHTSA Administrator, who discussed the extent of the problem and the agency’s efforts to address it. Summit attendees developed short and long-term goals and strategies leveraging the four Es – education, enforcement, engineering, emergency medical services – of traffic safety.
GTSB is also partnering with the Hy-Vee supermarket chain to print drowsy driving tips on grocery bags and produce a public service announcement. Hy-Vee operates 230 retail stores in Iowa and seven other Midwestern states (IL, KS, MN, MO, NE, SD, WI). The grocery chain actively promotes health and wellness through in-store and mobile retail health clinics.
- Patrick Hoye, Bureau Chief
Iowa Governor’s Traffic Safety Bureau
This showcase is excerpted from the report Wake Up Call! Understanding Drowsy Driving and What States Can Do.