While walking through my quiet, residential neighbourhood last night, I was dismayed at the number of cars that were racing around corners at well over 50 km/h. It brought to mind the scene in the film The World According to Garp, where Robin Williams (on foot) catches up to a truck speeding though his neighbourhood and basically beats it up, explaining that his kids live and play in the area.
I am not as much of a vigilante, but I did get to thinking that some kind of outré road sign might get people to think twice. Everyone is aware of the famous “Don’t even THINK of parking here” signs. I presume that they are more effective than regular “No Parking” signs. So what kind of message would get people to slow down a bit (even if it’s costing them up to dozens of seconds of their precious time), because they are entering a neighbourhood that is thick with young children?
Unfortunately, my first few ideas all employed profanity. I thought a big sign at the entrance to the neighbourhood that said, “SLOW THE F*** DOWN!” would be effective, but the city sign painters probably wouldn’t be amenable. Likewise with the slightly less risqué, “Hey Asshole, Kids Play Here – Slow Down.”
My next line of thought involved reasoning with the people who drive too fast. Along the lines of, “If you are driving, and a child darts out in front of you, and you kill that child, no-one is going to care that it was really the kid’s fault – so in this neighbourhood, you should slow down to a speed that will allow you to stop on very short notice.” But that’s a lot of text for a road sign, especially for one that is meant to be read by people who are moving quickly.
It really is a marketing dilemma. We all are trying to convey the importance of our message through visual means every day. Whether it’s the design and copy of your print ad, the sign on the front of your establishment, the “above the fold” layout of your home page, or the way you make your business cards look, we are trying to get across something that’s very important (at least to us, and the people we want to do business with), in a very short period of time.
The sign on the left would seem to do that, but it obviously doesn’t work in our neighbourhood. Perhaps they are so ubiquitous that they’ve lost their impact.
So here’s my idea: get one of those portable automatic radar-photo traps and let the folks who live in the neighbourhood take responsibility for it. Families could keep it for a couple of days at a time, then hand it on. The family with the trap deploys it in some random location each day. Then put a sign at the entrance to the neighbourhood that says, “If you exceed 30 km/h in Centennial Place, you WILL get a ticket.”
It’s the simple marketing technique of making a promise or offering a guarantee.