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NHTSA and the Ad Council Launch New PSAs Highlighting the True Danger of Distracted Driving

New PSAs from Ad Council, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and Organic encourage drivers to keep their eyes forward, and to not drive distracted

Washington DC, November 9, 2023 – Today, the Ad Council and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released new public service advertisements (PSAs) in support of the ongoing Distracted Driving Prevention campaign, which focuses on raising awareness of the dangers of using a cell phone while driving. According to the latest NHTSA data, in 2021, there were 3,522 people killed and an estimated additional 362,415 people injured in motor vehicle traffic crashes involving distracted drivers.

The new PSAs, entitled “Really Scary,” tap into the insight that the temptation for tech is visceral and ever-present, so drivers might not realize when they shift into distracted driving. The campaign aims to name the problem, so that drivers can become more aware of their behavior and avoid distracted driving. The latest TV creative depicts a scuba diver swimming in the ocean before coming face-to-face with a shark. As the camera zooms out, we see the driver’s phone screen and realize there’s something even scarier than the shark: the driver has been watching this video while driving. And because he’s distracted, he narrowly misses a pedestrian in the crosswalk.

“The newest iteration of this important campaign brings the very real, very serious dangers of distracted driving to the forefront of the conversation,” said Michelle Hillman, Chief Campaign Development Officer, Ad Council. “With phones and technology more accessible than ever, we are proud to continue our partnership with NHTSA on such an important issue to raise awareness of the dangers of using your phone while driving.”

NHTSA data shows that for 2021:

  • There were 3,522 people killed and an estimated additional 362,415 people injured in motor vehicle traffic crashes involving distracted drivers—an increase of 380 fatalities compared to 2020.
  • Eight percent of fatal crashes, 14% of injury crashes, and 13% of all police-reported motor vehicle traffic crashes in 2021 were reported as distraction-affected crashes.
  • During a typical daylight moment, an estimated 373,066 passenger vehicle drivers were holding cell phones to their ears while driving.

“We were inspired to tap into the idea of fear because of the target’s fascination with being frightened and scared. We wanted to work against that to show something truly fearful - distracted driving. We know that there are so many distractions that come with drivers using their cell phones,” said Andrew Carlson, Chief Creative Officer, Organic. “We’re so honored to have been chosen to produce this important work for NHTSA and continue to spread the message of the risks that come with distracted driving.”
The latest creative installment, developed pro bono by Organic, includes TV, digital, radio, print, and out-of-home assets that will appear across the country in time and space donated by the media. The PSAs will also be distributed to the Ad Council’s network of over 1,850 broadcast TV stations and 9,500 radio stations across the country.

Since first launching in 2011, the campaign has garnered over $460 million in donated media and over 24 billion impressions.

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The Ad Council
The Ad Council convenes creative storytellers to educate, unite and uplift audiences by opening hearts, inspiring action and accelerating change around the most pressing issues in America. Since the non-profit’s founding, the organization and its partners in advertising, media, marketing and tech have been behind some of the country’s most iconic and impactful campaigns – Smokey Bear, A Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Waste, Love Has No Labels, Tear the Paper Ceiling and many more. With a current focus on mental health, racial justice, gun violence and other critical issues, the Ad Council’s national campaigns encompass advertising and media content, ground game and community efforts, trusted messenger and influencer engagement, among other innovative strategies to move the needle on the most important issues of the day.

To learn more or get involved, visit, join the Ad Council's communities on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter, and view campaign creative on YouTube.

For more than 50 years, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has served as the key federal agency charged with improving safety on our nation’s roadways. As part of the U.S. Department of Transportation, NHTSA is working to reduce traffic-related deaths and injuries by promoting the use of seat belts and child safety seats; helping states and local communities address the threat of distracted, drunk and drug-impaired drivers; regulating vehicle safety standards and investigating safety defects in motor vehicles; establishing and enforcing fuel economy standards; conducting research on driver behavior and traffic safety; and providing consumer information on issues ranging from child passenger safety to impaired driving. For more information visit

Organic is the performance brand agency that delivers brand creative excellence with precision marketing solutions. Organic's two-decade heritage designing digital customer experiences and brand ecosystems is the foundation of the agency's unique lead-agency approach. Organic is part of the Omnicom Precision Marketing Group (OPMG), and Omnicom Group Inc. (NYSE: OMC).

Media Contacts:
The Ad Council
Ben Dorf