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Montgomery Co. uses comic book story to teach safety

Wednesday - 12/25/2013, 3:31pm  ET

comic.jpg
Montgomery County launches a new safety campaign. (Photo: Montgomery County Pedestrian Safety Initiative)

Can a graphic novel be a lifesaver?

WTOP's Kate Ryan reports

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WASHINGTON - Meet Marco and Maria.

"They're engaged to be married, they love each other very much and they're traumatized when one of them gets hurt by doing something careless," said Jeff Dunckel, coordinator for pedestrian safety in Montgomery County. For Marco and Maria, that careless act is crossing the street without using the crosswalk.

But Marco and Maria aren't real. They're fictional characters in a graphic-novel style pedestrian safety campaign recently launched in Montgomery County. The story is already appearing on Ride On buses and a number of bus shelters in the county.

Dunckel said the idea was to deliver a serious message about pedestrian safety, while drawing people in with the story of a romance in peril. He said the soap opera format coupled with the comic-book style generated a lot of discussion before the launch.

"There was initial concern that this sort of ‘telenovela' idea was stereotypic," Dunckel said.

Telenovelas, highly stylized soap operas, are a staple of a lot of Spanish-language channels in the U.S. and abroad.

Dunckel said telenovelas are popular with the population Montgomery County is trying to reach, and the reaction from focus groups was positive.

"This love-relationship between Maria and Marco is playing to the idea that if you love ‘Maria'-- if you love the woman in your life —- you'll be careful when you're on the street," Dunckel said.

You can follow the continuing saga of Marco and Maria on Montgomery County's Ride-On buses and in bus shelters in Montgomery County. The new public safety campaign was launched earlier this month.

WTOP's Kate Ryan contributed to this report. Follow @kateryanWTOP and @WTOP on Twitter.

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