DES MOINES, Iowa – Starting a conversation about traffic safety that leads to drivers changing their behavior behind the wheel – that’s always been the goal of the Iowa Department of Transportation’s Message Monday program. Since the inception of the program in August 2013, the sayings that appear on the overhead message boards on interstates and major highways every Monday were developed to help travelers understand the number of fatalities that occur on Iowa’s roads and increase the visibility of traffic safety.
The updated program, now called “Roadside Chat”, will function the same as before, but beginning last Friday, the overhead message boards on the interstates and major highways will be lit from 12:01 a.m. to 11:59 p.m. every Friday instead of Monday. The program displays the year-to-date roadway fatality count for Iowa, as well as a conversation-starting message related to highway safety. Corresponding social media and blog posts that give a back story to the messages will also be moved to Fridays.
The change to Friday will catch travelers on the second-highest fatal crash day of the week and leads into the weekend, which statistically features the highest fatal day in Iowa of Saturday and the third-highest day of Sunday (tied with Monday) based on data from 2010-2020. In addition, the move to Friday will catch both weekday commuter traffic, as well as travelers who may be heading out of town for weekend activities.
“We believe timing the change in the program ahead of the Independence Day holiday is an important move as the summer months are some of our deadliest on Iowa’s roadways,” states Steve Gent, director of the Iowa DOT’s Bureau of Traffic and Safety. “The program is meant to drive awareness of the number of fatalities that occur on Iowa’s roadways and help start conversations around the impact we all can have by changing our driving behavior.”
Another change in the new Roadside Chat program is more active encouragement of public suggestions that could be used on the highway message boards and in social media and blog posts. Gent states, “We believe that working with the public to create messages gets them more engaged in thinking and talking with others about how to increase safety on our roads, which is really the ultimate goal of this program. There’s also a sense of pride to be able to point to a message that runs on a Friday and tell your friends and family that you were the one that came up with that.”
If you have ideas for future messages, go to the Roadside Chat website. If your message is selected, you will be contacted and you will be acknowledged by using your first name, last initial, and city when the message is promoted.
The change is a result of collaboration between the Iowa Departments of Transportation and Public Safety, as well as other Iowa law enforcement agencies is expanded through the Traffic Fatality Reduction Task Force.
The task force, as well as the Roadside Chat program, are focused on reminding Iowa travelers of four things they have the power to do that will drive down serious injuries and fatalities on Iowa’s roadways:
- Slow down
- Drive sober
- Focus on the road
- Buckle up
You can find more information about crash and fatality trends on the Iowa DOT’s website.