If you appeal to someone’s heart, or someone’s emotions, can you get them to change behavior? It’s a standard tactic for advertisers, and now one woman is taking a page from that Madison Avenue playbook to try to influence how we drive.
Petulia Pugliares lives on a busy residential intersection in Wethersfield, Connecticut, south of Hartford. Her home sits smack between two elementary schools and a high school.
That doesn’t seem to faze the drivers, though. “Cars go by way too fast, especially during the morning and evening commute,” says Pugliares, who has witnessed numerous accidents, and has even been struck by a car herself as she walked the neighborhood. Frustrated, she came up with a simple campaign to try to get drivers to slow down.
Her message, printed on bright red lawn and street signs, reads, “Drive Like Your Kids Live Here.” Pugliares’ words seem to work, “It has that hit-home effect. It really resonates and makes them slow down,” she told ABC News.
In his blog, Daniel Pink, author of the book “Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us,” calls this a classic “empathy” campaign, a sign that elicits “empathy in the viewer.”
Lennon Flowers agrees. She works to promote empathy programs in schools, as part of the non-profit social change group Ashoka. ‘I think immediately they (drivers) picture their own child, and I would like to think as a result they step on the brake pedal a little bit. And if they’re not thinking of their own child, they’re thinking of a child they know,” said Flowers.
The idea is catching on. Pugliares, who works as an insurance agent by day, has sold and donated 4,000 of the signs to cities, community organizations and schools.
The town of New Milford, Conn. purchased 50 of the signs and now rotates them to different locations every few months to keep the message fresh for drivers. “People don’t speed on their own streets, so that’s the whole idea of ‘Drive Like your Kids Live Here,’” said police sergeant James Dzamko.
Every year, around 15,500 pedestrians under the age of 14 are injured in accidents, and an average of 350 is killed, according to Safe Kids USA. Cities have turned to speed humps and speed cameras to try to convince drivers to slow down. Some homeowners rely on “Children at Play” signs.
Pugliares said she hopes her message is “new and fresh” enough to catch a driver’s attention. They’re hoping so in New Milford too, but there the police have added to the campaign. They’ve printed postcards with the “Drive Like Your Kids Live Here” slogan on one side, and the fines for moving violations on the other. It touches not just a driver’s heart, but their wallet as well.
D.J. Marks contributed to this story