These New Subway Safety Ads Will Haunt Your Dreams

A campaign that makes you safe by scaring you to death

Metro Los Angeles is passionate about getting its passengers to utilize the city’s expanding mass transit system, and getting them to do so with the utmost caution.

They are also apparently passionate about scaring the shit out of you.

A new series of PSAs designed to get Angelenos to exercise care when using busses and trains around the city takes viewers on a trip to Safetyville, where peril is waiting around every corner in the form of dismemberment, decapitation and impalement, among other horrors. The YouTube description of the videos from Metro LA reads:

“Viewers take a trip to ‘Safetyville’ to explore common safety-related issues in and around train tracks and stations. The video series reminds people that ‘safety begins with you’ and tackles issues such as running to catch a train, lack of attention while driving a car near tracks and failure to follow posted safety instructions.

Yes, these clips are animated, but that may just be what makes them so disturbing. Watching the little abstract bodies explode into parts on the ground is meant to evoke you completing the image of a real body lying on the ground (or strung up on a telephone pole), presumably with blood and organs everywhere.

“Present or pulverized?” (actual title) follows “Joan” as she absent-mindedly walks a subway platform with her mobile device in hand. (Take note: In Safetyville, no one cares whether you live or die.)

“Careful or crushed?” introduces us to “Mike,” who is so wrong about whether or not his car is fast enough to beat the train to an intersection.

Are you a surfing enthusiast? Then you’ll relate to “Martin,” the star of “Patient or pancake?” who ends up under a train.

“José” appeals to Latino viewers who know what it’s like to race to a job interview, but once again, man vs. train does not go in favor of man in, wait for it… “Mindful or mangled?”

The orgy of the macabre continues in “Heads-up or headless?” You can imagine what’s about to happen to Jack…

Still not convinced you need to follow the rules and keep your eyes open? Maybe “Dismount or dismembered?” will finally scare you straight.

“Safety is our highest priority for Metro riders,” said Metro Board Chair and Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. “These videos are edgy by design because we want these messages to stick. A lapse of attention at a rail crossing or unsafe behavior at a station can have dire if not deadly consequences. Let’s all do our part to ensure a safe and enjoyable trip.”

With so many nightmare scenarios just a hair’s breadth from coming to pass, I don’t know if enjoyment is on the menu anymore, Mark! The series was inspired by a similar cartoon aesthetic that Melbourne Metro used a few years ago in a safety ad called “Dumb Ways To Die,” but that one managed to be more charming than twisted, because it hit the right tone of ridiculous.

And look, these ads are memorable, which is clearly the point. But did the narrator have to sound like she was mocking each of the little animated victims? Did she have to delight in Martin being mowed down by a train, or Joan’s entire body exploding after she walked into a subway car? Because of the narrator, you feel like, in some small way, Metro LA almost wants these things to happen so it can say, “I told you so.” It’s like “Safety Tips Brought To You By Edward Gorey”—and that guy had a super dark imagination.

We applaud your boldness, Metro L.A. But this was way harsh.

In any event, be safe out there everyone. And take your local mass transit options, because Green Energy will save us all—well, except for idiots like José and Mike, who clearly had it coming.

Julian Meehan

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