A History of Road Safety Campaigns

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Drink drive, seat belts and speeding campaigns

An example of a seatbelt advert.

Road safety education and publicity campaigns have a long history in Great Britain. This summary focuses on Drink Drive, Speed and Seat Belt Campaigns. It does not include the campaigns run on other road safety issues, such as Child Road Safety, Mobile Phones, Driver Tiredness, Motorcyclist Safety and so on.

Details of current government road safety campaigns can be found at http://think.direct.gov.uk.

The DfT publish a national road safety communications activity calendar which shows road safety communications activity planned by THINK! and ACPO (Association of Chief Police Officers). It shows the topic, content and timings for key campaigns to enable road safety professionals to coordinate local communications activity with national campaigns as well as with regional partners. The campaigns and dates are provisional and are subject to change.

June 1963 - Seat Belts - 'You Know It Makes Sense'
A TV advert showing car crashes with the narration 'before any of us say "it can't happen to me", snap into that seatbelt habit'.

Sept 1970 - Seat Belts - 'Your seatbelt is their security'
A series of TV adverts featuring Dennis Norden, suggesting that one reason for belting up is for your children.

Jan 1971 - Seat Belts - 'Clunk Click Every Trip'
TV commercials highlighted the dangers of being thrown through the windscreen in a collision. These advertisements prepared the ground for compulsory seat belt wearing in the front of the car.

Dec 1976 - Drink Drive - 'Don't take your car for a drink'
The advertising showed the unpleasant stages of police formalities and the possible tragic consequences of drinking and driving. One advert showed a woman being carried into an ambulance on a stretcher, to the soundtrack of 'Roll Out the Barrel'.

Nov 1977 - Drink Drive - 'Think before you drink before you drive'
A poster campaign using this slogan. It was later adopted by the Brewers and Licensed Retailers Association in their efforts to educate people about the dangers of drinking and driving.

Jan 1983 - Drink Drive
'Don't drive and drink – You're asking to get caught', 'Stay Low', 'If you drink and drive you are a menace to society'. These were slogans used in advertising during the late 1970's and early 1980's.

Jan 1983 - Seat Belts - 'The Blunders'
A fictional family was created for a series of TV commercials. The family members were all depicted as poor drivers, causing crashes in which other drivers and passengers were seriously injured as a result of not wearing their belts.

Jan 1986 - Drink Drive
Another drink drive campaign, this time highlighting the legal consequences of drink driving.

Oct 1991 - Speed - 'Kill Your Speed. Not a Child'
The first speed advertisements showed 'travelling' road signs to illustrate the different survival rates of being hit at 20/30/40 mph.

Dec 1991 - Drink Drive - 'Selfish Consequences'
A TV commercial aimed at reaching the hard core resisters, who are deemed to be relatively impervious to the suffering of others.

June 1992 - Drink Drive - In the Summertime Drinking and Driving Wrecks Even More Lives'
A TV commercial featuring Mungo Jerry's hit song 'In the Summertime'. The campaign was repeated in the Summer of 1994 and supported by a poster campaign.

Dec 1992 - Drink Drive
A hard-hitting commercial, featuring an image of a fatally injured young woman, emphasised the deadly consequences of drinking and driving.

Jan 1993 - Seat Belts - 'Elephant'
TV commercials used the slogan 'Never Forget – Clunk Click, Safety on the Move' and the image of a passenger morphing into an elephant. It made the point that an unbelted passenger can be thrown forward with the force of three and a half tonnes.

Dec 1993 - Drink Drive - 'Drinking and Driving Wrecks Christmas'
A TV commercial showed the horrific consequences 'a quick drink' could have on a happy family Christmas dinner with images of a burning Christmas pud transformed into a burning car.

April 1994 - Speed - 'Speed Kills. Kill Your Speed'
These advertisements showed the consequences of driving too fast. The adverts used two victims, who were shown as 'ghosts', accusing the drivers who killed them of driving too fast for the conditions.

May 1995 - Speed - 'Don't Look Now'
A black and white TV advert portrayed a young girl on her way to school with a child's voice over telling drivers 'You're going to kill me...' followed by the trivial excuses drivers use for speeding, such as being late for an appointment. National press advertisements and, for the first time, radio commercials featuring children's voices, reinforced the message.

July 1995 - Drink Drive - 'I've only had a couple... I thought I was all right to drive'
A TV commercial showed a young man who has crippled his friend in a drink drive crash.

Dec 1995 - Drink Drive - 'Come on Dave, Just One More'
A TV commercial in which viewers hear Dave's friends urging him to have one more drink in the pub. The visual shows a woman blending vegetables in her kitchen and pouring the unappetising puree into a bowl. The viewer then sees her feeding her son, Dave, who has brain damage, urging 'Come on Dave, just one more'.

May 1996 - Speed - 'At times we all drive a bit too fast' 'Kill Your Speed'
Three TV commercials used poetry readings about loss and grief (including the WH Auden poem from 'Four Weddings and A Funeral'). 6 radio commercials featured families of crash victims talking about their loss. The 'Kill Your Speed' hand symbol was used for the first time on adverts and publicity materials.

Jan 1996 - Seat Belts - 'Peter Pan' and 'Doctor'
Radio advertising aimed at young people, warning them of the dangers of not wearing a seatbelt. In 'Doctor' a surgeon describes the facial injuries which could be sustained by a teenager who does not wear their belt in the back of the car.

Dec 1996 - Drink Drive - 'Mirror, Mirror', 'Silent Night', 'Not everyone Needs a Reminder About Drink Driving'
A series of TV commercials, radio commercials, posters and postcards raising the profile of drink driving.

June 1997 - Drink Drive - 'Have None for the Road'
This TV commercial focused on responsibility and reminded viewers of the thousands of people who are killed, crippled and maimed in drink drive crashes.

Sept 1997 - Speed - 'so please let's all slow down', 'Kill Your Speed'
A TV commercial showing footage of children subsequently killed by speeding motorists. A voice-over explained the procedures followed by the police when informing victims' families.

Jan 1998 - Seat Belts - 'Belt Up in the Back. For Everyone's Sake.'
The 'Julie' TV commercial showed a car crash in which the unbelted rear seat passenger is thrown forward into the driver (his mother) killing her. The campaign also included radio advertising at drivetime along with posters and leaflets. The commercial continued to run during several months each year as part of the THINK! campaign.

Nov 1998 - Speed - 'Foolspeed'
The Scottish Executive and Scottish Road Safety Campaigns launched a major public initiative, including radio and TV advertising, aimed at reducing the use of excessive and inappropriate speed on Scotland's roads.

Dec 1998 - Drink Drive - 'Don't Drink and DRIVE'
The campaign included TV and radio adverts, leaflets and posters. By colouring the 'R' and the 'V' in the word 'drive' differently, the message was 'Don't Drink and Die'.

Dec 1999 - Drink Drive - 'Dying for a Drink'
The millennium message was 'plan ahead, don't drink and drive this millennium' and was supported by leaflets and posters.

Dec 2000 - Drink Drive - 'THINK!'
Following the start of the THINK! branding in 2000, the 'THINK! Don't Drink and Drive' campaigns were launched and now feature regularly in the annual THINK! calendar. The Christmas 2000 campaign included TV and radio advertising using Christmas songs contrasted with harrowing images of the emergency services dealing with the aftermath of a crash. Posters and postcards were placed in pubs and clubs to reinforce the message 'at point of sale'.

June 2001 - Speed - 'THINK! Slow Down'
The THINK! branding was used to convey the dangers of speeding. The TV commercial showed in dramatic slow motion the extra distance travelled by a car braking from 35mph rather than 30mph, with a child being knocked over as a result. The campaign emphasised, with radio adverts and posters, the importance of stopping distances and how speeding dramatically increases them.

July 2002 - Drink Drive - 'Badjobs.co.uk'
The aim of this campaign was to make drivers think before they drink before they drive. It was targeted particularly at young males aged 17-24 years, a notoriously difficult group to reach. The campaign was based on the insight that the greatest fear of young men when drink driving is getting caught. Thus the potential losses associated with getting caught are more motivating than the horrific consequences of a crash. Humour, rather than shock tactics, was used. The website was live and supported by radio adverts.

Sept 2003 - Seat Belts - 'THINK! Wear a seatbelt... You don't get a second chance'
The campaign included a TV advert and an interactive online crash simulator at www.thinkseatbelts.com. It highlighted the consequences of not belting up, even at lower speeds in urban areas.

Nov 2003 - Drink Drive - 'Night Out' and 'Rights'
Two new radio commercials were launched. 'Night Out' was aimed at young men whose idea of a good night out is going to a club and having a few drinks, whereas 'Rights' was aimed at a slightly older target group, 24-29 year old men. It sought to highlight the consequences of lose your driving licence. Radio commercials were also aired to coincide with the pubs opening early in the morning to show the Rugby Union World Cup. In 2002/2003 the Department for Transport sponsored the Great Britain Rugby League team for New Zealand's tour of England. The test series, known as the Think! Don't Drink Drive Test Series, and the Department's Think! logo appeared on the front of the Great Britain Rugby League team's jerseys.

June 2004 - Drink Drive - 'Crash'
A new £1.4m TV, radio and cinema campaign aimed primarily at 17-29 year olds, which graphically depicted the consequences of having a small amount of alcohol, was run over the summer of 2004. The TV advert was filmed entirely in a pub using state of the art editing and depicted a car smashing into people sitting around a pub table. The campaign also included a new radio ad as well as leaflets, posters and adverts on products such as milk cartons, which reinforced the message that it's impossible to calculate alcohol limits. It was run again over the Christmas/New Year period.

April 2004 - Seat Belts
Following new research showing that many parents stopped using child car seats far too soon, this campaign urged parents to use child car seats or boosters for their children until they are at least 11 years old or 150cm tall (roughly 5 feet). The campaign included the DfT's new web based simulator at www.thinkseatbelts.com, and pointed parents to www.childcarseats.org.uk, a website run by RoSPA. Britax, the child car seat manufacturer, also supported the campaign and ensured that advice leaflets on safe child car seat use were supplied with every purchase of Britax child car seats. Campaign adverts appeared in Practical Parenting, Junior, BBC Parenting, Chat, Inside Soap, That's Life, Take a Break, Women's Own and Bella magazines.

Sept 2005 - Speed - "It's 30 for a reason"
This campaign aimed to tackle both driving over the speed limit and driving too fast for the conditions. The campaign involved high profile TV and radio advertising, PR activity and publicity materials, which were available for stakeholders to help communicate key messages. The TV and radio commercials focussed on the 'It's 30mph for a reason' strapline, while radio commercials and posters aimed at rural drivers highlighted that over half of rural driving fatalities occur on rural roads.

June 2005 - Drink Drive
The 2004 TV advert was re-used for a Summer campaign to remind drivers that it takes less that you might think to become a drink driver, and to highlight the fact that drink driving is a year round problem, causing just as many drink drive casualties in the Summer months as the Christmas period. The campaign was supported by over 21,000 pubs, bars and off-licences who delivered and reinforced the messages to an audience of potential drink drivers at crucial decision making moments. It also began at the same time as TISPOL's (The European Police Traffic Network) drink/drug campaign which was supported by police forces across Britain.

The campaign was re-run at Christmas on all commercial networks and was complemented with radio advertisements which used real police officers explaining that more people are stopped and breathalysed at Christmas than at any other time of the year. It was again supported by a wide range of organisations, including over 20,000 pubs, bars, off-licences and transport providers.

Dec 2006 - Drink Drive
The 2004 drink drive advert was aired for the third year running over the 2006 Christmas/New Year period as part of a joint campaign by the Association of Chief Police Officers and Department for Transport. It included TV, cinema, radio, online, cinema and in-pub advertising and was accompanied by an enforcement campaign by the Police who breath tested all drivers involved in collisions, irrespective of whether or not they suspected an offence of drink driving.

Sept 2006 - Seat Belts - Child Car Seats
The THINK! Child Car Seat campaign highlighted major changes to the law about the requirement to ensure children used appropriate child restraints until they were old or tall enough to wear seat belts on their own. It featured a launch on GMTV's child car seat initiative, followed by national press and radio advertising, and on-line and magazine advertising.

July 2007 - Drink Drive - "Moment of Doubt"
The £3m 'Moment of Doubt' campaign included a new TV advert focused on the personal consequences of a drink drive conviction. It was developed after research which found that young men did not associate campaigns centred around a shocking crash with drink driving as they believed that the driver had to be drunk to have a serious crash, and so did not take on board the don't drink and drive messages. Rather than use shock tactics, the campaign sought to convince drivers, especially young male drivers aged 17-29 years, that a drink drive conviction has the potential to ruin their life. It highlighted a mixture of the legal and personal consequences, and focused on the 'moment of doubt' around the decision whether to have a second pint (this is the moment that young men start to doubt whether they should drive or not). It was supported by radio ads, pub washroom posters, press and online activity.

Dec 2007 - Drink Drive - "Moment of Doubt"
The Moment of Doubt drink drive campaign was re-run over the Christmas/New Year period, including the TV advert, cinema and in-pub advertising and partnership marketing. It was again supported by a range of organisations associated with the drinking environment providing in-kind sponsorship to help to deliver messages to an audience of potential drink drivers.

2007 - Seat Belts - "Julie"
The "Julie" TV commercial, first used in 1998, was re-aired to educate a new generation about the importance of wearing a seat belt in the back of the car. It showed a car crash in which the unbelted rear seat passenger is thrown forward into the driver (his mother) killing her.

Oct 2007 - Speed - Rural Speed Campaign
The THINK! Rural Speed Campaign highlighted the hidden dangers of speeding on rural roads, warning drivers that they are three times more likely to be killed on a rural road than an urban one. Its key message was not to go faster than the conditions allow.

Nov 2008 - Seat Belts - "Three Strikes"
The 'Three Strikes' campaign demonstrated the dramatic consequences of not wearing a seat belt. It was aimed at all drivers and passengers, with a particular focus on young men and women aged between 17 and 34, the group with the lowest wearing rates combined with the highest accident rate. Research suggested that the key problem was irregular seat belt wearing by the minority of the population, who made conscious or unconscious decisions whenever they got in the car as to whether or not to wear a seat belt. On familiar journeys at low speeds, for example, they were unlikely to see the need to wear a belt. The TV advertisement demonstrated the '3 crashes in 1' and the fatal injuries suffered, even at low speeds:

  1. Unbelted driver's vehicle hits another car
  2. His body hits the steering wheel and the windscreen
  3. His internal organs smash against his frame and rupture

June 2008 - Drink Drive
The lasting impact of drink driving was highlighted in a new £1,6m summer campaign with new radio adverts emphasising that a drink drive conviction stays on your licence for 11 years - affecting job prospects and serving as a constant reminder of the 12-month driving ban you received for driving while over the limit. To highlight just how long a drink drive conviction stays on the licence it pointed out what else an offender will do in those 11 years, for example, their heart will beat 400,000,000 times, they'll breathe enough air to fill 20 hot air balloons, eat enough potatoes to fill 6 phone boxes and drink 36 bathtubs full of water.

Dec 2008 - Drink Drive
The 2008 Christmas campaign promoted methods of avoiding drinking and driving by leaving the car keys at home. It included a 'Buy one and get two more free' deal for designated drivers in which designated drivers could receive free soft drinks at 2,500 pubs across Britain, as well as the Moment of Doubt TV advert, cinema, radio and in-pub advertising and was co-ordinated with a nationwide police operation, with many forces using new digital breath testing equipment funded by the Department for Transport.

Summer and Christmas 2009 - Drink Drive - Driver Friendly
The "Moment of Doubt" campaign, first run in 2007, was conducted again over the Summer and the Christmas period in 2009. It was supported with the Driver Friendly campaign which aimed to support the designated driver with promotional offers and 'rewards', linked to the purchase of soft drinks, on their night out. The campaign was supported by the private sector, including a partnership with Coca Cola who, over Christmas, offered designated drivers a buy 1 get 1 free offer on Coca Cola in over 8,000 licensed venues. 13 major pub chains, supported the campaign. It was co-ordinated with a nationwide police operation to catch drink drivers.

Feb 2009 - Speed - "Kill Your Speed or Live with It"
A new £3.2m THINK! campaign highlighted the life-wrecking consequences for drivers as well as victims of speeding. The campaign's stark message was that if you kill someone while speeding you will be tormented by it forever. In the new television advert a driver is haunted by images of the child he has killed - seeing his body in the bathroom mirror, through the window of a bus and when in the park with his son. The campaign included TV, radio, cinema and online advertising. The radio adverts - 'Always There' - featured a chilling message from 'beyond the grave'. Children's voices described what life is like for the driver who killed them while speeding several years ago. The drivers cannot sleep, watch a football match or spend time with their own children without thinking of the dead child.

Jan 2010 - Speed - "Country Roads: Don't Risk It"
The 'Kill your speed, or live with it' campaign was run again at the start of 2010 to highlight the devastating consequences of speeding for drivers as well as victims.

The rural speed campaign focused on the dangers of driving at inappropriate speeds on rural roads. It was particularly targeted at young, male drivers and habitual speeders. The aim of the campaign was to make young drivers and habitual speeders aware of the risks of driving too fast for the conditions. The campaign used a mixture of national radio advertising, national ambient advertising (including petrol pumps),posters and national and regional PR.

Feb 2010 - "Three Strikes"
The 'Three Strikes' campaign was re-run to remind drivers of the potentially fatal consequences of not wearing a seat belt. It included television, radio, cinema, and outdoor advertising.

Dec 2010 - Drink Drive - "Driver Friendly"
Designated drivers were again rewarded in thousands of pubs across the country as part of the 2010 THINK! Christmas drink drive campaign. In addition, radio advertising, posters in pub washrooms and online search activity, were used to support the Driver Friendly campaign.

2011 Onwards
Government road safety campaigns continue to be conducted as they play an important role in preventing death and injury on our roads. Details of current and future campaigns can be found at http://think.direct.gov.uk and in the national road safety communications activity calendar.

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