Filed under: Humor, RVing & Camping Apps 2011, Sporting Events, Nascar, Tailgating, Technology & Camping, Traveling Tips
GECKO LIZARDS INVADE VIRGINIA’S REST STOPS
Which iconic company character is the most recognizable by our US population?
a. The Geico Gecko Lizard
b. Progressive’s white-suit clad “Flo”
c. The Aflac Insurance Duck
If you guessed the Geico Gecko Lizard, you are correct!
The little green walking, talking, Australian accent speaking Lizard is the most recognizable icon used in television advertising today. The result is, as expected, an advertising boon to the parent insurance company that is often copied by other companies wanting to get your business.
Well, in Virginia, the Geico Gecko is about to get a lot more recognizable as his image appears on signs erected along the highway by the Virginia Department of Transportation as Geico forks over some badly needed infrastructure dollars to pay for what will be known as “Safe Phone Zones” at Virginia’s Welcome Center Interstate rest stops.
This first ever (for Virginia) venture using a large company like Geico to help offset the cost of operating the rest stops is projected to generate about $2 million dollars over the next three years. Considering that Virginia is one of the states that must be crossed by east coast travelers on both heavily congested Interstates I-95 and I-81 and that Virginia’s Welcome Center rest stops serve an estimated 33 million visitors each year, Geico will be getting one heck of an advertising deal for their investment.
At the core of the project is the belief that the Safe Phone Zones will be areas where motorists can park and safely use their mobile phones for making calls, texting, and surfing the Web with their cell or smart phones. With the exception of making calls, all of these activities can result in a ticket if done while driving in Virginia.
Joe Thomas, Geico’s regional vice president, said in a news release, “As we all know, distracted driving is a major problem. We all want to let drivers know about the safe phone zones in Virginia, where people can take a break from driving at the state’s welcome centers.”
Personally, I have no problem with the new program. I commend Virginia for finding a way to offset the financial burden on taxpayers and visitors for operation of the Welcome Center rest stops in new and innovative ways other than adding tolls, increasing taxes, or even closing the rest stops. The previous governor of Virginia, Tim Kaine, actually closed 19 rest stops during his administration in 2009 in an effort to trim the VDOT budget. The current governor, Bob McDonald, immediately reopened the closed rest stops upon taking office. Hopefully, the partnership with Geico will help to prevent any future rest stop closings.
Competition for advertising locations and the payment of significant amounts of money for those rights is an extremely competitive venture. Don’t be surprised to see an increase in advertising at or on publicly owned facilities as governments struggle for operational dollars. Perhaps our own Good Sam will eventually sponsor rest stops – he is already a major icon in the sport of auto racing.
The idea of a Safe Phone Zone is noble. But, truthfully, the opportunity to use a rest stop as a safe phone zone has always been there – provided that your cell phone carrier has a tower nearby that allows you to find a signal.
Distracted driving has been on the increase since the days when I was a youth. Use of the vehicle radio, CB, eating, smoking and conversations with passengers have always been there – not to mention applying makeup or using an electric shaver. I remember once running off the road while trying to read a road map spread across the steering wheel while driving – a pretty stupid thing to do yet common practice prior to GPS devices. But, with the introduction of cell phones, the incident of distracted driving began to increase. The major shift in public opinion on the issue really began to escalate when the practice of “texting” caught on – especially with our more youthful drivers.
Whether the new emphasis on Safe Phone Zones in Virginia will make a difference in reducing the number of distracted driving accidents remains to be seen. But, in the interim don’t be shocked by a sign with the Geico Gecko Lizard welcoming you to your next Virginia rest stop.
HAPPY CAMPING TRAILS TO ALL!
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