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Japanese Short Poems Convey Road Safety in New York City

New York City’s Department of Transportation launched its “Curbside Haiku” safety education and public art campaign last month. The campaign features twelve bright and eye-catching designs that mimic the style of traditional street safety signs. The twist, however, is that each sign comes with an accompanying haiku, a short form of Japanese poetry. John Morse is the artist behind the designs and the campaign is a public-private partnership dedicated to traffic safety education and awareness.

There will be 144 signs across New York City, placed at eye level and in high-crash locations near cultural institutions and schools. Here is a list of all the locations. In many of these spots, the signs and the accompanying haikus will be displayed together. In other cases, the haiku will be embedded as a QR code on the sign, which are only readable with smartphone apps. You can find all of the proposed artwork here.

This is one of many creative efforts of the DOT to educate the public on road safety. Earlier this year, the city started using skeletons on digital speed display boards. When drivers exceeded the posted speed limit, a skeleton appeared with the message “Slow Down.”

In 2010, the agency also released the “That’s Why It’s 30” campaign, which informed NYC residents on the 30 miles per hour speed limit and the deliberate reason behind it. The skeleton display and the ad campaign focus on a very real statistic: if a pedestrian is hit by a car traveling 40 miles per hour or faster, there’s a 70 percent chance that the pedestrian will be killed, whereas at 30 miles per hour, there’s an 80 percent chance he or she will survive. Below is one of the TV ads that aired during the campaign.

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