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Behavioral Change Messaging to Curb Distracted Driving


To motivate the driving public toward a new behavior that can directly reduce the prevalence of distracted driving.


Optimism bias has long been held as a behavioral science principle that leads people to adopt a false sense of security around dangerous driving behaviors, especially texting. As a result, many fear-based campaigns have been created over the years to dispute the “it can’t happen to me” fallacy, showing one violent crash scene after another.

Yet 90+ percent of the American public continues to admit they text while driving.

The “Change Your Settings” campaign is centered around a different behavioral science principle: the bias of meeting the expectations of those closest to us.

We explored this proximity bias with both primary and secondary research to uncover its impact on driving decisions.


We all know the behavior is dangerous. We know we shouldn’t do it. But we go against our better judgement for those we’re closest to. The irony — and the opportunity — is that these are the last people who’d want us taking such risks, especially on their behalf.

Our messaging harnesses the powerful influence of the relationships that makes this such a problem and leverages it toward a solution.

When invited to engage in a conversation around why they might text each other, people affirmed this truth: Your safety is more important than anything else.


We harnessed this insight by developing a two-pronged call to action:

  1. Talk to those closest to you about texting and driving and commit to one another to take action
  2. Change the setting on your phone to Safe Driving Mode

Much like the relationships, the psychological power that modern technology wields must be harnessed and aimed toward the solution. Given what we now know about willpower, habit science and the dopamine effect of our devices, it is beyond naive to expect drivers to resist risky behavior every time their phone chimes (the average person trades more than 85 texts a day). We need to make this a single, premeditated, set-it-and-forget-it decision that protects us from that relentless temptation when behind the wheel. Fortunately, all major smartphone platforms are now equipped with a feature to do just that.

drivingfocusimage Safe Driving Mode is a setting that detects when you are driving, holds text notifications until you’re not, and automatically responds to the sender on your behalf that you’ll get back to them when not behind the wheel. Just like the problem, we are all walking around with the solution, literally in our pockets. We just need to flip a very important switch and change our settings.


Radio concept is designed for subsequent spots to feature different relationships (spouses, friends, coworkers). Thus a variety of demographics can be matched to complementary radio formats.




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  • Microsite would:

    1.) Expound on the importance of making this a conversational priority with loved ones.

  • Microsite would:

    2.) Give step-by-step video instructions for all smartphone makes and models.

  • Microsite would:

    3.) Leverage a commitment device for greater adoption.

  • Microsite would:

    4.) Promote features that AUTOMATICALLY boost peer-to-peer sharing, social adoption and a swifter change in social norms.

  • Microsite would:

    4.) Promote features that AUTOMATICALLY boost peer-to-peer sharing, social adoption and a swifter change in social norms.

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  • Messaging targets those returning to their cars in relevant spaces like parking garages and rest areas.

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  • Motorists observe a relatable text thread —

  • Motorists observe a relatable text thread —

  • Motorists observe a relatable text thread — until one party's silence portends a tragic consequence.

  • And primes the call to action.

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Print executions available for editorial or poster placement.



Influencer Extensions & Social-Sharing Toolkit available.



This campaign was originally developed for use by the South Carolina Department of Public Service as a speculative campaign within a formal RFP process. Due to inconsistencies with the state procurement process, however, the campaign was never viewed by the state agency’s panel. This work is the property of Riggs Partners, and we respectfully submit it has significant value to the American public. It would be our privilege to donate this campaign and the assets produced to date to AdCouncil for pro bono distribution, with the endorsement and sponsorship of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.


This campaign meets the criteria set forth by AdCouncil for consideration as public service announcements: