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Source: Brian Bookwalter, bbookz@k-state.edu
News release prepared by: Rosie Hoefling, 785-532-2535, media@k-state.edu

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

BTW, K-STATE GRAD HELPS PUT AN END TO TXTING WHILE DRVN

MANHATTAN -- When Brian Bookwalter was preparing his thesis project for his master's from Kansas State University he had no idea it would turn into a major campaign in the state of Kansas -- and possibly elsewhere.

Bookwalter, Topeka, designed five anti-texting-while-driving posters and a website as part of his thesis project for his Master of Fine Arts. He said the main focus of his thesis was to explain how emoticons and Web speak could be used to more effectively communicate a message to the public. Using familiar texting acronyms his posters display various images, such as a pair of feet with a toe tag that says "NT BSY JUST DRVN" and a tagline along the bottom that reads "What will your last text message say?"

"I knew it was a hot-button topic, texting while driving, and I'd had personal experiences with it, including almost being hit by a texting driver and also doing it myself," he said. "I realized how risky it was, so I thought what if I could use my graphic design ability to somehow create a campaign against texting while driving. It wasn’t a real original idea in terms of doing a campaign against texting and driving -- those exist -- but I felt mine embraced how we actually communicate with our cell phones, which I put in a print form."

The Kansas Department of Transportation agreed. Department officials contacted Bookwalter in April after seeing his posters displayed in the William T. Kemper Foundation Art Gallery in the K-State Student Union for his thesis show. The posters soon became part of the department's statewide campaign to remind drivers not to text while driving and were on display for three weeks this spring at the state Capitol. They also have been credited with helping to get a law passed that bans texting while driving in Kansas.

"It was great," Bookwalter said. "My intention was just to get my degree. It blossomed into something much more than I had intended when the Kansas Department of Transportation called to ask if they could use my artwork to pass a law. This is way beyond any mission I had at the outset."

Bookwalter's designs will be featured on a line of postcards distributed at the Kansas State Fair in September, and he said the Iowa Department of Transportation has contacted him about possibly using his designs.

Bookwalter, who graduated from K-State in May, does website design for CivicPlus in Manhattan.

He hopes his anti-texting posters will be around awhile. He said he's learned his lesson about texting while driving.

"I think the best way to put it is that I join the millions of hypocrites who know that it's dangerous but who have done it," he said. "I think the best thing I can do is not only eliminate texting while driving but also take responsibility for limiting all distractions when driving. I think texting and driving is extremely dangerous, driving drunk is extremely dangerous, and putting on makeup or reading behind the wheel is very dangerous."

Under the state's new texting while driving ban, which Gov. Mark Parkinson signed into law May 25, drivers caught texting will receive warnings until Jan. 1, 2011. After that, $60 fines will be issued for violating the law.

More information about Bookwalter's participation in the Kansas Department of Transportation's anti-texting-while-driving campaign, including his poster series, is available at http://www.bookwalterdesign.com.