Nothing says Christmas like the South Carolina Highway Patrol. The season is here and so is the DUI blitz: Let the propaganda begin.
As part of the DUI blitz, the South Carolina Department of Public Safety released a series of ads to get the word out about how dangerous it is to drink and drive.
The South Carolina Highway Patrol released the following preliminary numbers “detailing their progress” in driving under the influence arrests:
- Horry County – 22
- Darlington – 6
- Dillon – 8
- Florence – 20
- Marlboro – 2
- Marion – 0
- Georgetown – 3
That’s progress. In fact, the article tells us that DUI arrests have increased 72 percent since 2006. Remember though that’s arrests, not convictions.
No one wants drunk drivers on the road. I get it; it’s dangerous. The folks behind the media campaigns have good intentions. The thought process is simply to blitz the media with ads and hopefully no one will drive drunk. Get the message out on billboards, TV and radio. Rinse and repeat. Unfortunately, the statistics show that it’s not going to work.
It happens with some of the best commercials in the advertising business. Either the point is not communicated effectively or maybe the audience just doesn’t get it. That’s show business. It’s not hard to remember an example of an ad campaign that failed. It’s probably equally as easy to recall one that succeeded wildly. Every now and again there is an ad campaign that seems to fail, yet in some subtle way hits it out of the park.
The Highway Patrol ads are catchy. How can you forget Sober or Slammer, Buzzed driving is Drunk driving, or my favorite, Zero Tolerance? I mean it, these are great sounding slogans. Yet still they fail. We know they fail because the police are making more and more DUI arrests in spite of the ads.
Could it be that may be these ads are hitting it out of the park? I think they are and I see two problems with them. First, the ads are wrong on the law. Second, the ads tend to increase the number of arrests.
The slogans sound good but they misstate the law. In South Carolina it is not against the law to drink alcohol and then drive. Because of these commercials there are a lot of people (potential jurors?) who think that having one drink and getting behind the wheel is a crime. It is not.
The second problem with these slogans is that they lead to additional arrests. Despite the purpose of the campaign (reduce drunk driving), law enforcement will consider it a success if they make a high number of DUI arrests.