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Scary New NHTSA Ad Channels Slasher Movies

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spooky woods at night | Scary New NHTSA Ad Channels Slasher Movies
New NHTSA ad uses slasher movie setup to warn against driving high
Photo: DocChewbacca via CC 2.0

We’re less than 100 days away from Halloween, and a new commercial from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration aims to put us in the right, spooky frame of mind. The ad — a collaboration between NHTSA, the Ad Council, and Vox Creative — hearkens back to ’80s slashers to demonstrate how scary driving high is.

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“You Can Run, But You Can’t Drive High,” which you might have spotted on television over the past month, features a classic horror setup. Two men, Connor and AJ, flee for their lives as they’re chased out of a cabin, through a dark forest, and toward a desolate gas station by a bag-headed maniac slinging an ax.

Where your conventional slasher flick might portray its protagonists as dumb and irresponsible, this clever commercial twists the trope by making our would-be-victims hyper-aware of the dangers of driving under the influence of marijuana. They’re all too happy to break the fourth wall and tell you about how being high slows your reaction time — even right before they slide out of the way of a potential killing blow.

When the two final fellas stumble upon an abandoned truck with a spare set of keys tucked into the visor, you’d imagine that a dead battery would be the thing that delays their escape. But in this case, it’s Connor fessing to AJ that he can’t drive because he recently partook of some pot. Our heroes do the responsible thing and switch places — causing the ever-bearing-down slasher to pause in confusion — before fleeing into the night.

Watch: ‘You Can Run, But You Can’t Drive High’

It’s important to note that NHTSA, the Ad Council, and Vox Creative aren’t making a value judgment about the use and legality of marijuana here. The objective, simply, is to remind folks who do smoke that it’s not safe (or legal) to drive after the fact. What’s more, it works as a nice homage to horror cinema. Director Vincent Peone renders the scenes and atmosphere so authentically you wind up waiting for a Harry Manfredini score to kick in. (Though Daniel Grimsland’s work here does quite nicely.)

This lovely little ode to the slasher film is part of a larger campaign from NHTSA and the Ad Council aimed at raising awareness about the dangers of driving high. If you visit, you’ll find a whole bevy of resources on the correlation between smoking marijuana and impaired driving with objective analysis of different studies and conclusions. The website also provides links to some of those studies so you can judge for yourself.

The commercial, which has been split up into various 15- and 30-second iterations for TV, is the first to come from Vox Creative. Matching the ad proper is a series of spoof movie posters with fake starred reviews, which you can find on social media.

“You Can Run, But You Can’t Drive High” achieves in the sense that it reminds folks that driving high is on the same level as driving drunk or distracted driving. It also serves as a nice little reminder that, COVID-19 or no, the spookiest and best time of the year is still creeping closer.

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