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Talking urinal cakes' safety message relieving bar-goers or pissing them off?

During the "Heat is On" Labor Day enforcement period, the Colorado Department of Transportation reports 1,342 DUI arrests and nine fatalities thought to be alcohol-related.

These numbers represent a reduction from last year -- and a CDOT spokeswoman thinks one factor might be "interactive urinal communicators," aka talking urinal cakes that dispense a mid-stream safety message. But are the cakes working or pissing people off? Hear the recording and get more details below.

As we reported yesterday, a CDOT press release from last year calculated 1,440 DUI arrests during the 2012 Labor Day "Heat" campaign, conducted between August 17 and September 3, as compared to the aforementioned 1,342 from August 16 to September 3 of this year.

A DUI checkpoint.
A DUI checkpoint.

However, CDOT spokeswoman Emily Wilfong reveals that final figures put the 2012 arrest total at 1,508, considerably higher than first announced. She adds that 2012 saw thirteen alcohol-related fatalities over that span, four more than this year's nine.

"We would love to see the numbers even lower," Wilfong stresses. "Our goal is always zero fatalities. But we are pleased to see the numbers have decreased, and we do feel enforcement paired with a new education campaign contributed to it."

The aforementioned education campaign included the interactive urinal communicators, shorthanded as IUCs. But Wilfong says calling them talking urinal cakes is perfectly acceptable, and no wonder, since the recording they play actually makes a similar reference.

"Keep a constant stream on this urinal cake and let's see how drunk you are," intones the jaunty, tongue-in-cheek-sounding male narrator of the clip. He then rates various states of intoxication -- "Tipsy...charming...hamboned...uh, where are your pants?...winner!" -- accompanied by comic sound effects before delivering concluding words of wisdom: "Make sure you keep winning and get home safe. Drink and don't drive."

Click below to hear the fifteen-second sample for yourself.

Not every watering hole was outfitted with IUCs over recent weeks. Wilfong estimates that they were placed in about fifteen bars around the state, with approximately a dozen placed through CDOT's media-buying agency and a public-relation firm placing a handful of others at operations such as Mountain Sun Pub and Brewery in Boulder and Denver's Vine Street Pub & Brewery.

The exterior of Vine Street Pub in Denver.
The exterior of Vine Street Pub in Denver.

How was the reception to the chatty cakes? Well, 9News contacted a couple of them and discovered that an IUC was stolen from one and removed by management from another following customer complaints.

This reaction isn't unprecedented. Last year, a similar device was stolen from a bar in Michigan, whose transportation department also tried the tactic; we've got a video about that on view below.

Continue for more about interactive urinal cakes used by the Colorado Department of Transportation, including two videos.

Here's where to look for interactive urinal communicators.
Here's where to look for interactive urinal communicators.

Wilfong tells us that the theft and removal "are two of the biggest pieces of feedback we've gotten" to the IUCs so far -- and she doesn't pretend that all the other other comments were positive. "It's definitely been a mixed response. A lot of people appreciate them, but some may not, and maybe found it offensive."

Still, she goes on, "our goal with the IUCs is having one last possibility of getting some messaging to someone considering whether or not to drive" -- particularly men between 21 and 34, the demographic most likely to die in alcohol-related crashes -- "and reminding them that there are other options out there."

CDOT has options, too. Wilfong says the department sees the IUCs as a success in the sense that "people are talking about them -- and if we've got people talking about them, good or bad, that means they're aware of the message and are discussing it." But she doesn't confirm that the devices will be back during enforcement periods to be put in place during upcoming holidays (Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's) or next summer, when CDOT runs its largest, most prominent campaigns.

The most she'll say is that the talking urinal cakes' return is "definitely a possibility."

Here are two videos -- the first a 9News rebroadcast of the Michigan theft story, the second a more recent 9News piece about the Colorado cakes.

More from our News archive: "1,342 DUI busts in Labor Day enforcement period, nine alcohol-related deaths."


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