Cpl. Rebecca Ellison of the Virginia Commonwealth University Police Department recently stopped a woman near the school’s medical campus for traveling the wrong way on a one-way street.
Ellison immediately noted that the driver had a cell phone in her hand --- and knew exactly what to say.
“If you put that phone down, you might not have gone down the wrong way on a one-way,” Ellison told the woman.
Keeping stories like this in mind, Ellison has worked diligently with her colleague, Det. Shawn Kelley of the VCU PD, to push a distracted driving awareness campaign known as T L Cubed (TL3).
The message, spread mainly through bumper stickers and a vibrant Facebook campaign, is simple: Text Later Live Longer.
Ellison and Kelley’s first target for the message was VCU students and the officers have had the backing of VCU PD Chief John Venuti.
“In the past we’ve been told to get innovative and come up with different ways to engage the students,” said Ellison. “And we tried to come up with something edgy, similar to the Outer Banks stickers and we went from there.”
While driving through VCU’s campus in downtown Richmond, you have a fairly good chance of seeing the TL3 stickers on cars and motorcycles. Ellison and Kelley have been handing the oval, black and white, stickers out at official PD events and mail them out to others in their free time.
As a traffic officer, Kelley has pulled people over for texting and driving --- and he tries to stress the severity of texting and driving to drivers of all ages.
“We tell people that texting is six times as dangerous than drinking and driving and you’re 23 times more likely to get in an accident while texting and driving,” Kelley said.
Since October 2013, Ellison and Kelley have distributed more than 20,000 stickers nationwide and internationally. They’ve sent bumper stickers to individuals and public safety departments in all 50 states and to people in places as far as Australia, India and South Korea.
They are focused on encouraging others to put cell phones down while driving --- but it’s the stories of loss that make them continue the effort.
“Besides the fact that it’s really neat to see our stickers on vehicles, the stories people share with us are important --- perfect strangers think we’re doing a great thing by getting the message out,” Ellison said.
They had a mother reach out on Facebook and share a photo of her son; he is now learning to walk and talk again after an accident in which he was texting and driving. Someone else contacted them after an elderly woman in their community was killed in her front yard by a distracted driver.
For VCU, TL3 stickers have become a staple accessory on police cars, maintenance vehicles, student buses and even on an electronic message board above the Siegel Center.
The officers are proud that TL3 has been so well-received in Richmond --- but it’s each and every driver that they hope will take the message to heart.
Virginia Commonwealth University
University Public Affairs & VCU Police Department