Billboards showing two feet poking out from a white sheet in a morgue have the tagline, "I raced a train and all I got was this lousy toe tag." Another billboard shows a cast on a person's leg with the caption, "I raced a train and all I got was this lousy full-body cast."
The graphic billboards are part of Norfolk Southern’s (NS) Train Your Brain public safety program, which warns motorists and pedestrians of the grave consequences of disregarding railroad signals and trespassing on railroad property.
NS is bringing the campaign to East Tennessee: Knoxville, Chattanooga and the Tri-Cities region, this year to remind people to use their brains and be smart and alert around trains.
Tennessee was selected because of its high number of train-vehicle crashes and trespassing incidents. In 2012, the state ranked ninth in the nation with 66 highway-rail collisions resulting in four deaths and 18 injuries, while 10 people died and 10 were injured while trespassing on railroad tracks, equipment and property.
“The dramatic billboards grab your attention and make you think first before you cross the tracks,” said Bill Barringer, Norfolk Southern’s director grade crossing safety. “When people realize that trains can take a mile or more to stop and the impact of a train hitting an automobile is similar to the impact of an automobile flattening a soda can, that makes a memorable impression.”
In addition to the billboards, the campaign’s mascot, “Brainy,” a giant pink brain, will share information about railroad safety by giving away notebooks, T-shirts and sports rally towels at state fairs, festivals and University of Tennessee at Knoxville and Chattanooga football and basketball games.
To reach college-aged students, who statistically are more likely to disregard train horns and flashing lights to “beat the train” across the tracks, talk on cell phones, listen to music and drive aggressively, Train Your Brain messages also will appear in some unexpected places, such as gas pumps, movie theater screens and even on frozen billboards (wraps on ice chests at convenience stores).
Norfolk Southern launched Train Your Brain in Memphis in 2007, with the Memphis-based marketing communications firm Archer Malmo providing creative support and coordination. During the past six years, the campaign has run in North Carolina, Indiana, Ohio and Alabama, reaching more than 800,000 people. For more information, go to brainysworld.com or facebook.com/BrainysWorld.