- Associated Press - Saturday, June 25, 2016

ANDERSON, S.C. (AP) - South Carolina is starting a campaign against drinking and driving based on a trooper’s tweets using the little graphic icons called emojis on his smartphone.

The Highway Patrol already has 130 billboards up and will include Sgt. Bob Beres’ message at convenience stores and high school football tickets. The emojis show an alcoholic drink, the plus sign and a car with an equal sign leading to a police car. The message is drinking and driving equals arrest.

“We want zero fatalities in South Carolina. Emojis have became a big hit and we didn’t expect it,” Beres told the Anderson Independent-Mail (https://bit.ly/28SBw6g ).

Beres says emojis are a simple way to communicate. His mom is Hungarian, speaks little English, but understands. A fellow trooper agrees.

“It makes you stop and think about the message, which makes you remember it,” Highway Patrol Cpl. Bill Rhyne said.

Beres says he started his emoji-based tweets in October after massive floods inundated the state. He noticed they got a lot more attention that messages with just words. The popularity of his tweets took off. National advertising executives have sent him messages about his emoji skills.

The emoji messages work because they turn a message into a game - an impulse that is felt in cultures around the world, said Tharon Howard, a Clemson University communications professor.

Howard has seen the billboards with Beres’ message and it stuck with him after he took a few seconds to figure it out.

“It’s that impulse to solve problems and play games that really helps emojis reach across cultures,” Howard said.

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Information from: Anderson Independent-Mail, https://www.andersonsc.com

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