A family of synthetic snowmen looked on in horror as one of their own lay splattered and in pieces on the hood of a car. Using the scene as their backdrop, police officers from all over the Wasatch Front issued a plea and a warning: celebrate the holidays responsibly or you or someone else could end up like Frosty.
About 50 law enforcement from Davis, Salt Lake and Utah Counties gathered at the Gateway on Thursday morning to remind people that they will be out in force between now and January to step up enforcement of the state's DUI laws.
"You won't be able to swing a cat by the tail without hitting a trooper or two in the head," said Cottonwood Heights Police Chief Robby Russo.
Russo warned that there won't be any "holiday cheer and forgiveness" coming from officers who stop drunken drivers. No tolerance will be the name of the game.
The demonstration was part of the Utah Department of Public Safety's ongoing ad campaigns against drunken driving. Each year during the holidays, the department tries to drive the DUI message home with tactics meant to get people's attention. Last year, they staged a car accident in the middle of a Christmas tree lot to relay the message that DUIs can "wreck" the holidays.
This year, it's the devastated snowman that's meant to snowball into the public's awareness. One of the snowmen holds a sign that reads: "Snowmen can be rebuilt. People can't. Please drive sober this holiday."
The snowmen are also meant to be a reminder of the human cost of drunken driving. David Barnes, the medical director at Intermountain Medical Center, said Thursday that as an emergency room physician, he often saw patients who died or were permanently injured because of they or their loved ones chose to drink and drive. He told the stories of one man who killed his brother-in-law in a drunken driving crash. Another man who was driving drunk caused a crash that paralyzed his girlfriend.
"These are two very tragic cases and two cases that were preventable," Barnes said.
In 2011, according to the Department of Public Safety, 39 of Utah's 243 traffic fatalities were alcohol-related.
"What we try to do is create a visual and an execution of it so that [the DUI message] becomes a new message," said Steve Wright, public affairs director for the ad agency R&R Partners, which created the snowman display. The hope is that people will see the display when they're out shopping, share a photo of it through social media, and let the message spread naturally, Wright said.
The Gateway also will give away free T-shirts to customers who take a picture of the snowmen through the photo sharing application Instagram and show their work to the mall's concierge, according to Gateway marketing director Rochelle Fraser.
The snowmen will be on display at the mall until Dec. 17. The display will then move to University Mall in Orem, where it will remain until Dec. 20.