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Tolling Points

Interactive Theater Educates the Next Generation of Tollway Drivers

Bill Cramer

Toll concessionaires in Greece are making a long-term investment in highway safety, using interactive theater to reach out to the 14- to 18-year-olds who represent the next generation of tollway drivers.

At IBTTA’s 84th Annual Meeting and Exhibition in Denver earlier this year, industry icon Bill Halkias, President of the Hellenic Association of Toll Roads Network (HELLASTRON), said member companies had delivered their message to more than 48,000 children in more than 400 schools, dramatically increased road safety awareness, and earned a European Transport Safety Council award for their efforts.

Halkias said the motivation behind the program was simple: while safe infrastructure, safer vehicles, and new technologies are all important, 98.9% of fatal crashes involve some element of human error.

“We have to face the cruel reality,” he told participants. “The cruel reality is that we’re dealing with people, and people make mistakes.”

When Ingenuity Defeats Common Sense

HELLASTRON looked to the history of early safety technology for a measure of how far human ingenuity will sometimes go to defeat safety and common sense. The auto industry went to great lengths to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of seat belts, then introduced warning systems for people who refused to wear them. The market responded with a seat belt alarm stopper that costs 99 cents, and has achieved global sales of more than $150 million.

The only possible conclusion is that the buyers for the technology “think their bodies have been built to look like Graham,” described by The Huffington Post as a “bulging, unsightly, and very crash-proof specimen” developed by a road engineer, a trauma surgeon, and an artist in Australia as a visual cue to the importance of highway safety.

“His superhuman features include a massive skull to protect the brain; a flat, fatty face capable of absorbing the energy of an impact; no neck, eliminating the possibility of it being broken; stronger, thicker skin; ribs fortified with their own air bags; knees capable of bending in all directions; and an extra leg joint that allows him to jump out of the way of a moving vehicle,” HuffPo reports.

“In short, Graham would have no trouble walking away from a high-speed, head-on collision.”

But we are not Graham, so it is extremely important to at the very least wear your seat belt and make sure all passengers are as well.

Getting Youth Onboard

Part of the solution is to connect with teenagers before their driving habits are formed.

One way to reach out is to set up fake driving school tests where they’re required to text, talk on the phone, or change songs on their mobile devices while they’re behind the wheel (on a closed course): Halkias said students who participate quickly realize the “tests” are impossible to pass.

But the interactive plays, first pioneered by the Attica Tollway, became another great pathway to “create the right habits, the right thinking,” he told attendees at IBTTA’s Annual Meeting in Denver. A tally of 1.25 million roadway deaths per year represents a huge corporate social responsibility challenge for Europe, he added, and safety education ties in powerfully with a toll road’s mission.

“We believe the continuous improvement of road traffic safety creates and returns the appropriate value for the toll paid by the user,” he said. “Everybody is paying the toll, and they expect safety and reliability.”





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