PennDOT embraces social media

Texting while driving on Pennsylvania roads is illegal, but the state Department of Transportation is hoping drivers will use their smartphones to access videos and live traffic updates – before getting behind the wheel.

PennDOT has created official profiles on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. The content is aimed at providing educational videos and live traffic updates for motorists, PennDOT spokeswoman Erin Waters-Trasatt.

“This is a great opportunity for people to stream these [videos] a little more easily and embed them if they want to share videos,” Waters-Trasatt said.

Popular video clips include construction and time lapse videos of the damaged Interstate 81/routes 22 and 322 overpass, Waters-Trasatt said.

The majority of the videos posted to the department’s YouTube page are safety and educational videos.

Viewers can watch clips about motorcycle safety and PennDOT’s latest educational efforts.

On Twitter, the department has created multiple 511 PA accounts for live updates on a regional scale.

The @511PAAltoona sends out messages and alerts about construction projects and delays in Blair and surrounding counties.

Fans of PennDOT on Facebook can view the department’s pictures and keep up to date with local events in the area, PennDOT spokeswoman Tara Callihan-Henry said.

The accounts routinely send out news and traffic updates, including construction detours and delays resulting from vehicle accidents.

Content from one page is routinely shared between the other social media platforms.

“We’re at least getting that message out a little more,” Callihan-Henry said. “If there’s a new video out there, we’ll tweet it out.”

The department has about 16,500 “likes” on Facebook and nearly 11,600 followers on Twitter.

On YouTube, the department only has 61 dedicated subscribers, but certain videos have hundreds of views.

PennDOT has plans in the works for future videos to drive users to the YouTube channel, including sending film crews out for ride-along trips with road maintenance workers and snowplow operators.

“We really like people to see what our people really face out there,” Waters-Trasatt said. “There’s a lot in the works.”