This Cringe-Worthy PSA Tackles Highway Safety in the Worst Possible Way

This Cringe-Worthy PSA Tackles Highway Safety in the Worst Possible Way

If one advertisement about child death goes over poorly with a nation, you'd expect other organizations to take a pause with another. Not the Colorado Department of Transportation, which apparently learned no lessons from the poorly received Super Bowl ad from Nationwide Insurance.

In a new PSA for the national Toward Zero Deaths campaign uploaded to CDOT's YouTube channel, a family of three — two parents plus a small child — learn the fatality rate on Colorado roads in a year. When they express relief that the number (480) isn't higher, suddenly, the number ticks up one more. 

"I'm so sorry," the parents are told after their child disappears. Then, accompanied by the mother's scream, there's a smash cut to a wrecked car — the implication being their child was also an auto fatality victim.

It's a powerful message, but mostly a misguided one. As shown by the almost universal backlash to the Nationwide ad in February, using child death as a motivating factor in a PSA is a non-starter. It's seen as tacky, to say the least, but also opportunistic and morally dicey.

The circumstances here are a bit different: CDOT isn't selling anything, so the ad doesn't have the same tone of extortion. Not only that, but the Toward Zero Deaths campaign is working towards a positive goal for all. But CDOT shared that important message in the worst medium. Shock value is a powerful and attention-grabbing measure, but it shouldn't come at the cost of your cause's credibility.