Wondering why that shipment you're expecting is late? In many states, you might be able to find out what the holdup is by checking Twitter or Facebook. According to the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), 26 of the 32 state departments of transportation surveyed by the group are communicating with drivers through social media like Twitter and Facebook. (Since the survey was completed, at least three other states have also begun to use Twitter, says AASHTO.)
The survey found that the states are using Twitter to notify travelers of road closures or detours caused by major traffic incidents, construction, and severe weather. Travelers seem to like the service: Washington state's DOT, for example, has some 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, uses multiple Twitter accounts, giving drivers the ability to personalize their information based on specific highway routes or geographic locations.
Asked what methods they considered most effective for reaching their primary audience, respondents cited Twitter (65 percent), RSS feeds (56 percent), podcasts (18 percent), and Facebook (13 percent). Fourteen of the 32 states that participated in the survey have an active Facebook page (one unnamed state said its Facebook page was designed for "transportation geeks"), and 23 reported using video on their Web sites. Eighteen states also have an active YouTube channel, and four have weekly video updates or news shows online.
This doesn't mean the states are encouraging texting while driving. Most, if not all, warn followers to pull over before they access information.
To see the entire report and a list of state DOT Twitter addresses, click here.