A growing number of state transportation departments (DOTs) are communicating news and information to travelers using Twitter, Facebook and other social media.
The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials' (AASHTO) survey of 32 state DOTs found 26 states or (82%) are now using Twitter to communicate with travelers when major traffic incidents or severe weather such as snow storms, hurricanes and tornadoes force roads to be closed or detours.
Almost half of the states surveyed (14) have an active Facebook page and 23 states use video on their website. Eighteen states also have an active YouTube channel.
"Using social media tools allows us to carry messages to constituents through the forums they already use rather than expecting them to seek us out," said Washington State Transportation Secretary Paula Hammond.
"We have improved our agency's credibility with the public, improved communication efficiency and saved taxpayers money."
Washington was one of the first state DOTs to use Twitter and now has 8,000 followers on its main WSDOT Twitter account and 3,000 followers on its Seattle area traffic account. Washington, along with Mississippi, Tennessee, Texas, and California are among several states using multiple Twitter accounts to give travelers the ability to personalize their information based on specific highway routes or their geographic location.
Overall, state DOTs are finding that social media is more efficient in reaching the public with time-sensitive traffic and travel information, according to the survey. Among the various social media tools, respondents found Twitter (65%), RSS feeds (56%), podcasts (18%) and Facebook (13%) to be the most effective ways to reach their audiences.