Ticketing Aggressive Cars and Trucks in Washington State



Overview – Taking a Strategic Approach

The Steering Committee utilized a strategic communications approach to support the enforcement program. Once the enforcement program priorities were determined, the Committee developed a communication plan based on the Click It or Ticket high visibility enforcement (HVE) model used to significantly raise safety belt use nationwide. The HVE model works by strategically marketing increased enforcement through paid advertising and earned media outreach during special emphasis periods.

As part of the strategic communications process, the Committee reviewed traffic and enforcement-related data and market research to determine the primary audiences and their related attitudes and knowledge, priority markets, behavioral objectives, key messages, how best to reach and influence primary audiences, and evaluation criteria for communication efforts.

Communication Priorities

The Committee created the following priority communication goals based on the enforcement plan:

  • “Cutting off trucks” was the targeted driving behavior. Other behaviors considered were tailgating, speeding, and aggressive driving especially around commercial motor vehicles.
  • Test the use of the HVE model in two priority markets to determine the impact in reducing the risky driving behaviors that may contribute to crashes involving large trucks.
  • Select two markets as comparison sites for evaluation purposes
  • Develop a model communications process that could be replicable by other States.

Message Development

In addition to the primary message to “leave more space” around commercial vehicles, other messages about driving safely around CMVs were part of the communications effort. A vigorous public relations campaign communicated these messages to the public and to the news media who reported the message in their television and radio reporting (earned media). Likewise, messages to truck drivers to drive safely around passenger vehicles were included in this broader communication effort.

Intercept survey. The WTSC conducted a 100-person intercept survey to gauge public attitudes and awareness levels about driving around CMVs and leaving one car length for every 10 miles of speed when merging in front of CMVs. The survey findings underscored anecdotal evidence from law enforcement and the trucking industry that cutting off trucks was an undesirable but widespread habit of motorists. This survey found that 42 percent of motorists reported that they leave three or fewer car lengths at 60 mph when merging in front of large trucks, even though they think of themselves as safe drivers.

In the first intercept survey, a road sign visual was shown to respondents to gauge their perceptions and reactions to it. Building on this feedback, the road sign visual was further refined and tested with a second 100-person intercept survey to ensure that drivers could read the road sign while traveling at speeds of 60 to 70 mph. The road sign communicated to drivers that they needed to leave more space when merging in front of large trucks and that extra law enforcement patrols would increase their chance of being ticketed.

Radio message and air buy. A Seattle advertising company was commissioned to develop a radio advertisement that conveyed the message to “leave more space” when merging in front of CMVs (Appendix A). A Seattle firm purchased advertising spots and negotiated additional free air time placements as part of this purchase agreement. The advertisement aired between July 7 and October 20, 2005, in Olympia and Bellingham (in Seattle it ran until September 4). The ad ran 45 times Monday through Friday during major drive times (6 a.m. through 7 p.m.) on all major radio stations in the intervention areas. The message reached more than one million people, aged 18 to 54 in the Seattle media market, 113,200 in Olympia, and 42,800 in Bellingham. Spots on radio stations were bought with the general driving public as the target audience in mind.

Table 1 below shows that the $194,425 media budget purchased the equivalent of $384,843 in paid radio advertisements and bonus spots. In the Seattle media market, $94,110 was spent with an additional $89,843 worth of bonus media negotiated in that market. In Bellingham and Olympia, the media budgets totaled $100,315 and the value of the bonus media was $100,560. The bonus media aired during the same time slots as the paid media schedule. There were 6,033 bonus radio placements with 986 of those in Seattle and the remainder in Bellingham and Olympia. (Appendix A)

Table 1. Media value

Media Market

Radio Media Purchases

Radio Bonus Ads

Total Media Value


$ 94,110



Bellingham & Olympia








In addition to radio placements, newspaper ads were carried in the major daily newspapers of both intervention corridors, as well as in the Fort Lewis Army Base papers. Print ads ran between 6 and 10 times in these papers. See Appendix A for a sample of the print ad.

Media Relations. A vigorous public relations campaign accompanied this effort. A press event with participation by the TACT Steering Committee kicked off the campaign. The event took place at the Nisqually truck weigh station north of Olympia. Appendix A has a photograph of the press event.

News coverage of the campaign was carried in the major daily newspapers along the intervention corridors and in Seattle. The campaign was covered by five news stories, four editorials and numerous letters-to-the-editors. In addition, two weekly newspapers carried the story, a trucking industry publication, and a magazine and electronic newsletter reaching the 520,000 AAA members in Washington. Appendix A has letters-to-editors that ran in January 2006.

Television coverage was extensive with eight TV stations in the Seattle and Bellingham area reporting the story. Five of those stations carried the story more than once. Appendix D has a list of the TV stations.

Radio station news coverage was carried on 16 stations, 10 of them in the Seattle media market. News coverage and live, on-air interviews were conducted with WSP troopers involved with the project. An interview of WTSC Director Lowell Porter was carried on a satellite radio channel reaching five million subscribers. Appendix A has a complete list of radio coverage.

Road sign. Eight innovative road signs were erected in each of the two intervention corridors, four southbound and four northbound per corridor. The road signs will remain in place for one year after the project has ended (until the end of September 2006).

Wrapped CMVs. Three CMVs, one each from Gordon Trucking, Interstate Transport, and Bates Technical College, were wrapped with the TACT pilot project campaign visuals. These CMVs traveled the intervention corridor areas from the beginning of the enforcement waves in July 2005. The trucks served as a visual testimony to the public of the trucking industry’s support for this project and served as a public awareness message on wheels.

Posters, Banners and Flyers. Posters, banners, and flyers were developed and distributed as part of the publicity effort. Flyers were handed out by law enforcement during all traffic stops as an educational tool for the project. Posters were erected in 112 businesses in the areas of the intervention corridors, in stores, gas stations, restaurants, government offices, and groceries. Thirty-one banners were put up in and outside of public buildings. (See Appendix A for visuals of the poster, flyer and banner.)