Arizona DOT Names Winners of Safety Message Contest

The Arizona Department of Transportation recently named the two winners of its annual ‘Safety Message’ contest, whose compositions appeared on digital highway signs statewide during the first weekend of September.

[Above photo by Arizona DOT]

During the first phase of the contest, 3,700 entries were submitted. Those entries were eventually whittled down to 10 finalists, with a public vote in August determining the two winning messages, written by Elise Riker and Gina Finkelstein.

Riker, a business professor at Arizona State University, submitted “Seatbelts Always Pass the Vibe Checks.” Meanwhile, Finkelstein – a software support engineer – took inspiration from the 1999 film “Notting Hill” when she penned “I’m Just a Sign Asking Drivers to Use Turn Signals.”

Elise Riker and her winning entry. Photo by Arizona DOT.

The Arizona DOT invited Riker and Finkelstein to its Traffic Operations Center in Phoenix so they could type their traffic safety message into the agency’s Dynamic Message Sign system and see them go live via highway cameras.

“I hope the message makes people chuckle and happy that they are wearing a seatbelt,” noted Riker in a statement.

“Using turn signals before you turn makes you a total star,” added Finkelstein, “just like Julia Roberts in ‘Notting Hill,’ only bigger and better.”

The Arizona DOT noted that it displays what it describes as “unconventional” safety messages on digital highway message boards as part of an effort to change driver behavior and encourage motorists to make better decisions while driving.

According to national statistics, driver behavior, like choosing to speed, driving distracted, impaired or reckless, plays a role in more than 90 percent of vehicle crashes, the agency said.

“Seeing thousands of Arizonans participate in our ‘Safety Message’ contest, from creating their own messages to voting for other safety messages, is exciting and a positive for all of us,” stressed Jennifer Toth, director of the Arizona DOT.

“The purpose of the contest is to kick-start conversations about making better decisions behind the wheel, so everyone can reach their destination safely,” she said.

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