The Drive Clean Across Texas campaign
A reality of the one driver, one car scenario is the pollution created by so many commuters. Much of our time on the road is often spent idling or driving slowly in traffic, which pollutes the air and is a primary contributor to ground-level ozone production, especially in the summertime. By educating yourself about how your driving habits impact air quality, you can learn some easy ways to save a buck…and a breath.
That’s the message promoted by the Drive Clean Across Texas (DCAT) public outreach and education campaign, the nation’s first statewide air quality campaign. Launched in 2002, DCAT supports local air quality programs in Texas’ nonattainment areas by raising awareness of vehicle emissions and helping to change attitudes about air pollution. The campaign is co-sponsored by the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ). TTI researchers and staff from TTI Communications—in cooperation with a public relations firm, developed the successful program.
“The project involved a very productive partnership with Sherry Matthews Advocacy Marketing, Texas A&M University’s Bush School of Government and Public Service, TxDOT and TCEQ,” says Brian Bochner, senior research engineer and TTI’s project supervisor for DCAT. “Surveys conducted over the last six years show a 57 percent increase in public awareness of the campaign and the message.”
During the past year, TTI staff have helped spread the word about how to make better travel decisions and help clean our air at events that ranged from the 50,000 attendees of the Houston HEB Children’s Festival to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) EarthFest in Dallas, which drew 10,000 people. The EPA recently recognized the campaign’s effectiveness with its 2007 Clean Air Excellence Award for Education/Outreach.
In 2002, a Texas Education Agency-approved air quality curriculum for K-12 classrooms in Texas was produced through DCAT. The curriculum materials have been distributed to thousands of teachers and continue to be popular at the annual Conference for the Association of Science Teachers. Activity books, posters, brochures, calendars, book covers, a cartoon DVD and an adult education video were also developed and are available free of charge to any teacher or citizen requesting them. Most materials are available in Spanish.
DCAT is also reaching out to the general public through popular venues, including a campaign partnering with the Dallas Cowboys. Through a cooperative agreement with Blue Star Media and Sam Pack Ford in Dallas, Texas, residents 18 years and older could enter a drawing to win a free Ford Escape Hybrid. Escapes were given away to winners in the fall of 2007 and the summer of 2008. Materials requests and sweepstakes entries were accepted at www.drivecleanacrosstexas.org.
Driving a hybrid vehicle isn’t the only way to make a difference. “Most people don’t know that simply keeping your tires properly inflated and the air and oil filters changed regularly not only saves you money on gas, but will also help you become a `cleaner’ driver,” says Richard Goldsmith, public information officer with TxDOT’s Environmental Affairs Division. “It can also be as simple as doing all your errands in one trip or not idling in the drive-through.”