Businesswoman using cell phone while driving
Photograph by Inti St Clair—Getty Images/Blend Images
By David Z. Morris
April 23, 2016

In what is pretty definitively the best government use of social media of all time, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is pushing back at Twitter users who admit to texting and driving. Over a dozen times a day during April, it has @-replied to tweets mentioning or confessing to the bad habit.

For example:

Nope, nobody’s good at it, @pvpib. Do yourself and other drivers a favor and get off your phone when you’re behind the wheel. #justdrive

— NHTSA (@NHTSAgov) April 20, 2016


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Listen to @amna__khalil on this one, @jon_vegass. Put the phone down, and #justdrive. No text is worth it.

— NHTSA (@NHTSAgov) April 20, 2016

Most of those on the receiving end of the tweets seem to be stunned into silence—NHTSA isn’t getting many replies from its targets, and some seem to have even deleted questionable tweets. But the exercise in public shaming is drawing onlookers, with NTSHA’s tweets getting a good bit of interaction and shares.

.@davidn21501 Our name is NHTSA and we want you and other drivers to be safe on the road. Put the phone down and #justdrive

— NHTSA (@NHTSAgov) April 19, 2016

It’s a gutsy move for a government agency, and probably took some real work to sell internally. Direct replies on social media can backfire, and have landed big brands in hot water, especially when automated or generic.

But NHTSA’s tweets are personalized, and mostly strike just the right tone—stern but caring, rather than bossy, scolding, or judgmental. Plenty of social media marketers could learn from the example.

For more on tech and driving, watch our video:

Of course, it helps that NHTSA’s message is so simple and important—texting while driving is the most dangerous thing you can do on the road aside from driving drunk, and the behavior is concentrated among teens and twentysomethings.

The NHTSA Twitter (TWTR) campaign will last until the end of April, which is Distracted Driving Awareness Month.

Just because we believe in their mission (and not at all because public shaming is entertaining), here are a few more of the tweets:


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