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Texting While Driving? Catch Yourself Red-Handed


Drivers encouraged to paint thumbs red in smart project from EVB

Texting While Driving? Catch Yourself Red-Handed

In a vehicle, just one thing stands between a life-threatening accident and your phone – and that’s your thumb. Why not paint it red as a reminder that texting while driving is dangerous?  

This is the thinking behind Red Thumb Reminder, an initiative begun by Steve Babcock, executive creative director and partner at San Francisco-based digital advertising agency EVB (Evolution Bureau). He admits he was one of the worst offenders, habitually checking his phone at every opportunity, including while driving. Babcock knew the behavior was terrible but couldn’t break the deeply ingrained habit. He began wondering whether he could find an easy, effective solution, something anyone could do that wasn’t expensive.  


“I don’t think anyone has an issue knowing this is a problem,” said Babcock, noting that most marketers approach such issues by creating awareness campaigns, and that the TV and online spots he’d seen were intended to scare and shame people into behaving better. He was looking for a message that was optimistic, and he considered creating something to be worn – such as a glove or bracelet – but that didn’t feel right.


Then Babcock saw a piece of purple string tied around his daughter’s finger, and he knew he was on to something. He used a red Sharpie marker to color the nail on his right thumb – the digit he uses to text and browse his phone – but the ink wore off. To keep the color in place, Babcock needed something permanent – like nail polish! With his wife’s help, the ad executive applied a coat of her red polish to his thumb, and he found that the bold swipe of color consciously reminded him to consider his behavior each time he reached for his phone. Since that initial application, he said, he’s kept the color in place – and broken the habit.


The other bonus Babcock discovered: the color prompts multiple conversations each day with strangers, each strengthening his resolve to do the right thing. Once he explains the thinking behind his red thumb to others, he finds, they want to do it, too. The idea is gaining traction, he thinks, because people can easily make this anti-texting-while-driving statement with a preferred shade of red.


“This is an old-school approach to a new-world problem,” Babcock believes. “It starts with me, and you don’t need much: You need a thumb. You need the desire. And you need nail polish.”


More information about the initiative is available at and Visitors are encouraged to share their own stories through either platform or on Twitter, using the hashtag #redthumbreminder. Babcock’s favorite part? The mobile version of the site senses if the browser is moving and asks whether that person is driving. It’s yet another instance of being given the choice to do the right thing.

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Sapka Communications, Tue, 07 Jan 2014 18:28:01 GMT