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Office of Highway Safety Receives National Award for “Jim Reaper” Campaign

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:  Tuesday, Aug. 27, 2019

Contact: Tony Mangan, 605-280-5648


Office of Highway Safety Receives National Award for “Jim Reaper” Campaign


ANAHEIM, CA – A South Dakota Office of Highway Safety safe driving campaign, one that uses humor to promote an important message, has been honored by the Governor’s Highway Safety Association (GHSA).


The “Jim Reaper” campaign Tuesday received the Peter J. O’Rourke Award during the GHSA conference in Anaheim. The campaign depicts a Grim Reaper character as a bumbler who tries (but fails) to convince drivers not to be safe on the road.


“Since we began using Jim Reaper in TV promotions and on social media in 2018, we have been surprised at the type of positive response the campaign has received,” said Lee Axdahl, director of the Office of Highway Safety who accepted the award. “This was a different way to get the message across that every day as drivers, we have the opportunity to make the right decisions, to keep ourselves and others alive, and to outsmart Jim Reaper.”


“Jim Reaper” appeared first during the 2018 Super Bowl telecast.  In the first two commercials, Jim Reaper is dressed in black, carries a scythe and tries to get drivers to do unsafe things such as not wear seatbelts or motorcycle helmets, become distracted while driving, and drive after having one too many drinks. At the end of each commercial, the person does the right thing, foiling the Reaper’s plans. Since then, Reaper has appeared in other commercials and social media campaigns, and has been used to promote safe driving during special times of the year like St. Patrick’s Day and the Fourth of July. The character also has appeared at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.


“We may all have been tempted to cut a corner or two as a driver sometime in our lives,” Axdahl said. “But this campaign is designed to make you stop and think. It only takes one bad decision that results in a permanent loss of a loved one or serious injury to you or others.”


The campaign, developed by the Office of Highway Safety in conjunction with Lawrence and Schiller, has been honored at other national conferences and has been copied by other states. Axdahl says Jim Reaper, who personally appeared at the GHSA conference, will continue to be part of the office’s safe driving message.


Axdahl says the results of the campaign, along with other safe driving efforts by the Department of Public Safety, have generated positive results. So far this year, the number of vehicle fatalities are down about 45 percent compared to 2018. 


The Office of Highway Safety is part of the South Dakota Department of Public Safety.




Photo Attached: SD Office of Highway Safety Director Lee Axdahl speaking as he accepts the GHSA award for Jim Reaper campaign. (Courtesy of Lawrence and Schiller).