The action of texting and driving is a problem and a danger that is very worrisome. In fact, it is so troubling that a funeral home in Toronto, Canada, the Wathan Funeral Home, put up a billboard that read “TEXT AND DRIVE”. This billboard was placed along an expressway, a very calculated move by this business. They wanted to introduce the problem to drivers and did it in a way that stirs up controversy, but still utilizes pathos and serves its purpose quite effectively. A funeral home pushing for drivers to text while they’re driving seems unethical. However, if analyzed and coupled with the explanation given by the funeral home themselves, it’s clear that they were trying to be ironic and bring the issue to light.

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This billboard was ironic and unsurprisingly sparked a plethora of reactions, with anger being an example of such. However, this funeral home hits the emotional side of people very effectively. They used the irony of that statement being said by a business that is based around deaths, to bring to light how someone could end up in their funeral home by being distracted on the road. On their website, they responded to the hate they were receiving with an explanation that they are “just trying to get Canadians to stop texting and driving, which is projected to kill more people in Ontario [in 2016] than drinking and driving.” So, their decision to make this controversial billboard was to invoke whatever type of emotion they could into the people of Ontario, in hopes of at least bringing the issue into peoples’ minds.

In today’s society, virtually everyone has a cell phone. In fact, in a poll conducted by the Pew Research Center, 95% of the adults they asked owned a cell phone. In addition to that, this day and age also calls for the “need” to constantly text, call, or just browse through social media. Now, group that with the fact that there are 210 million licensed drivers in the United States (Federal Highway Administration, 2009), and what do you get? Accidents. The National Safety Council reported “an estimated 5 percent of crashes involve[d] texting, while 21 percent involve[d] drivers talking on handheld or hands-free cell phones” in the United States in a report published in 2014. With the rise of cell phone use and users, and the number of drivers in the United States, accidents from distracted driving will undoubtedly happen at high rates.

Although this billboard’s purpose was to bring light to the issue in Canada, texting and driving is a huge problem in the United States as well. In 2015, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported that “3,477 people were killed, and 391,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers.” Not only that, but “during daylight hours, approximately 660,000 drivers are using cell phones while driving”, which undoubtedly holds tremendous potential in causing accidents, fatal or not. To further demonstrate the problem of texting and driving in the United States, when compared to the United Kingdom, “CDC researchers analyzed data from the 2011 EuroPNStyles and HealthStyles surveys and found that 69 percent of U.S. drivers talked on their cell phone while driving within the 30 days before they were surveyed compared to 21 percent of drivers from the United Kingdom”. This statistic highlights the severity of the issue in the United States. Along with that, the CDC also found that “31 percent of drivers in the United States reported that they had read or sent text messages or emails while driving, compared to 15 percent of drivers in Spain.” Clearly, there is an issue in the United States when it comes to texting and driving. Our percentages double the Spanish and triple the British.

As stated before, a funeral home advocating for more texting and driving may seem unethical. However, if we dug deeper we’d see that they were just trying to be ironic and bring the issue to the forefront of drivers’ minds. In fact, it can be argued that they were performing their ethical responsibility in putting the reality of the issue to light. The action of planting a big billboard next to an expressway with the words “TEXT AND DRIVE” in all caps, with the name of the funeral home right under it is sure to catch a driver’s attention. When driving down a freeway, or expressway, there are always tons of billboards littering the roads along the way. Implementing a billboard with a humane purpose behind it is not only ethical, but the use of controversy makes it that much more effective and noticeable.

The placing of this billboard is clearly intentional. The billboard placed next to the highway works well because it is an area made specifically for drivers moving at high speeds. It could be said that the billboard itself will distract the driver, however, the point is to implement the reverse psychology behind telling someone to do something their common sense tells them not to. Their use of pathos is astonishing, this is a great way of appealing to the driver’s emotional side while also making them question the logic behind their choice to text while driving (logos). The hope is that the reminder to the driver to text and drive helps bring the thought of using their phone to their consciousness, so they can make the better choice instead of subconsciously doing what they’re used to doing.

When CDC researchers investigated specific age groups that reported texting and driving, it was clear that the younger generation is guiltier than the older ones. The data showed that “a higher percentage of 25-44 year-old men and women reported talking on a cell phone while driving than those ages 55–64”, along with the fact that “a higher percentage of 18-34 year-old men and women reported reading or sending text or e-mail messages while driving than those ages 45-64.” As a society, it is our job, morally, to provide a great future for generations to come. In an eyeball test, if we would just look around when we are in the passenger’s seats of a car, we would see person after person looking down at their phone, or talking on the phone, or some other type of distraction. That eyeball test would find more younger individuals than older ones on their phones. Teens are the ones most reported to have texted and driven in their lives. In fact, Alexandra Bailin, a Research Assistant at Cohen Children’s Medical Center, “analyzed data from about 7,800 U.S. high school students who had their driver’s license and took part in the 2011 survey,” and found that “the teens were asked if they had texted while driving in the past 30 days, and 43 percent said they had.” Almost 50% of the teenagers surveyed admitted to texting and driving. When presented with that statistic, coupled with the fact that drivers who text are 23 times more likely to crash than non-distracted drivers (Harvard Medical School Commentaries on Health), it is quite alarming that so many young individuals are on the road distracted by their cell phones.

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A billboard erected by a funeral home advocating the action of texting and driving not only pushes the issue into the forefront but can also have another underlying message. Most people expect funerals to be held for older folks. However, funeral homes, including the Wathan Funeral Home, could be seeing so many more deaths of younger men and women and could feel the need to do their part in trying to stop it. No one wants to see anyone die, but it definitely hits us a lot harder when they go young and when it’s cause by an avoidable accident. Texting is a choice, and any PSA to keep people from making that choice they could live to regret should be presented. Technological advancements are always happening, and the social media world is always buzzing so the billboard was only there to further the conversation, they just took the satiric and ironic approach. Funeral homes are presumably used to death, considering their work is revolved around it. So for such a business to feel the need to put up an advertisement in an attempt to see less deaths from a certain way says something. It should show people the seriousness of the issue and should get them to think more about it. When it comes to our young ones, that always brings more attention to a topic, so maybe the fact that more teenagers are reportedly texting and driving will create a more developed conversation and inspire someone to produce a solution. Kids should not be showing up at funeral homes more than older individuals are.

This billboard, although just three words in length, accomplished a lot if one thinks through it critically. The use of pathos, invoking emotions such as anger, or providing that moment of realization for people is very effective. Controversy always works and always gets the people talking, and that is what the Wathan Funeral Home’s goal was. They wanted to further the conversation and do what they could to stop people from texting and driving. They clearly did not want to see any more people come through their doors with the cause of their death being by accident and by something completely avoidable. The issue they were tackling, texting and driving, was clearly backed up by evidence. The amount of accidents, deaths, and injuries caused by distracted driving is very high and the frequency of individuals being on the road while being on their phones is alarming. The accidents will not stop unless the issue is brought to light and everyone who can stop it, does everything they can. Nobody should be driving while texting, and this billboard is a very effective way of trying to get that message across.

 

 

 

Annotated Bibliography

andrew.currin.ctr@dot.gov. “U Drive. U Text. U Pay.” NHTSA, 3 Jan. 2018, www.nhtsa.gov/risky-driving/distracted-drivingThis source talks about the risks and statistics of drinking and driving. They describe distracted driving and talk about the consequences that have come from that decision made by people. I used this source to provide specific statistics behind how many people died or were injured by distracted drivers. I find this source to be reliable because it’s a .gov and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s purpose is to keep America’s roads safe so I trust their statistics.

“Highway Finance Data Collection.” U.S. Department of Transportation/Federal Highway Administration, www.fhwa.dot.gov/policyinformation/pubs/hf/pl11028/chapter4.cfmThis source provides statistics they gathered about how many drivers the United States have. They provide charts and tables on different subcategories of how many licensed drivers there are, their gender, age, etc. I used this source to put the statistic of how many drivers were on America’s roads in 2009. This source is credible because it is a .gov and the Federal Highway Administration/The U.S. Department of Transportation’s job is to know facts about America’s roads.

“Many Teens Are Risking Lives by Texting and Driving.” Many Teens Are Risking Lives by Texting and Driving | Northwell Health, www.northwell.edu/about/news/many-teens-are-risking-lives-texting-and-drivingThis source talks about the issue of texting and driving, but specifies the issue among teens. It provides information about a survey they did and what the results were. I used to source to provide the results of the survey to back up how texting and driving is an issue among teens. I trust this source because it was on a .edu website and the survey was conducted by a research assistant at Cohen Children’s Medical Center.

“Mobile Device use while Driving More Common in the US than in..” CDC Press Release, 14 Mar, 2013, SIRS Government Reporter, https://sks.sirs.comThis source is a press release from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It provides information on what they found when comparing mobile device use in the U.S. compared to other countries. I used this source to include the percentages of mobile phone use while driving in the U.S., U.K., and Spain. I find this source to be reliable because it is a government document released by the Health and Human Services Department (HHS) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“Mobile Fact Sheet.” Pew Research Center: Internet, Science & Tech, 5 Feb. 2018, www.pewinternet.org/fact-sheet/mobile/This source is a research website that polls people and puts up that information. They have statistics on how many Americans have cell phones. I used this website for just that—to use the statistic of how many people in the United States owns a cell phone. I trust this website because they are nonpartisan and look to only present facts.