A disturbing new PSA, featuring an adorable boy on a bicycle, is the latest Vision Zero initiative to target reckless drivers.
Entitled "Racer," the ad is set on a sunny residential block, and lacks the mournful and ominous soundtrack we've come to associate with traffic-safety TV spots. Instead, the volume is cranked up on everyday sounds: birds chirping, a key turning in the ignition, doors opening and closing, an accelerating engine. The scene is hyper-real, as if the DOT is saying, "Hey, horrific car crashes can start out extremely mundane."
The ad also implements a split screen to powerful effect. On the left, the driver turns his key in the ignition, while, on the right, the boy's mother adjusts his helmet and reaches in to fasten the strap. Moments later, on the left, the driver fiddles with his pre-set radio stations as the speedometer spikes. On the right, the mother puts a protective arm around her son's shoulder as he bikes down the sidewalk. Then we cut to a crosswalk signal, indicating that it's safe to cross.
In an instant, the left screen, trailing the speeding car, converges with the right screen, where the boy and his mother are approaching the center of the crosswalk. The screen goes black to the sound of screeching metal and shattering glass.
The final arial shot, of the boy's bike, overturned with wheels spinning, is accompanied by text: "He wasn't racing. The driver was." And, "Slow down. Your choices matter."
"Racer" is the first in a series of TV ads entitled "Your Choices Matter," which will run through the end of June. The ads will also be complimented by newspaper and online ads featuring objects found on the scene of fatal pedestrian accidents. DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said in a statement this morning, “While NYC DOT redesigned more streets than ever and NYPD increased traffic enforcement, bringing safer streets to the five boroughs is also the responsibility of drivers."
According to the DOT, 70% of pedestrian fatalities in New York City are the result of "reckless or dangerous driving decisions by motorists." And according to an official summary of the Vision Zero Pedestrian Action Safety Plans—five unique traffic safety plans tailored to each of the five boroughs and rolling out this year—pedestrians make of 73% of all traffic fatalities in Manhattan. For comparison, nationwide, pedestrians only make up 14% of traffic deaths.
"Racer" comes on the heels of a new ad campaign from Families for Safe Streets, which targets not just drivers, but MTA bus drivers specifically.