Safer Roads For All
The annual government drink-drive campaign had a slightly different approach this year, which I review below. But let’s take a wider analysis of what the annual ritual is about – and what could be wrong with it.The Christmas 2018 annual campaign is entitled “A mate doesn’t let a mate drink drive” and is described by the Department for Transport thus :
Our campaign is calling on friends to do what they do best – look out for each other. We’re specifically calling for mates not to let their mates drink drive, asking them to step in when necessary when a friend who is driving is drinking.
In Great Britain, in 2015, there were 170 young people between the ages of 17 and 24 who were killed or seriously injured in reported accidents when over the legal alcohol limit.
The video shows a group of friends preventing their designated driver from drinking alcohol at the pub. The driver wants to have one pint, but his friends deliberately continue to spill his drinks – before buying him a non-alcoholic drink.
At the end, the group ‘cheers’ each other with the caption ‘knock it on the head’ – in reference to one of the ways they have prevented the driver from drinking. The video, which contains strong language and what might be considered by some as inappropriate behaviour, has been viewed 5.3m times on Facebook.
A second campaign video, ‘Party Time’, champions the designated driver, who in this case is Dr Ofori – an opinionated Uber Driver played by Michael Dapaah, an English rapper, actor and comedian. The video, which has been viewed more than 4m times, follows a group of mates on a night out with their Uber driver, who sticks to soft drinks while the others drink alcohol. On the journey home, the driver is forced to brake sharply to avoid a pedestrian on his mobile phone – with the driver highlighting his ‘ninja reflexes’ as a result of not having consumed any alcohol. The overarching 2017 THINK! festive campaign puts forward the premise that ‘a mate doesn’t let another mate drink drive’, and depicts celebrity friendships including Ant and Dec, Barack Obama and Joe Biden, and Rodney and Del Boy.
The video signals a move away from the traditional approach taken by the THINK! Campaign, which was outlined by Dawn Lauder, who heads up the marketing team at the DfT, at the National Road Safety Conference 2017. She told delegates that with road safety advertising becoming less noticed, it was time for a new approach to make THINK! more relevant at ‘moments that matter’ to young drivers and their passengers.
Essentially the change from previous campaigns is simply a shift towards social media to get the message over to young people, because that is a more appropriate medium to reach them than traditional media.
I am more interested in how the problem is defined, and how it fits into perceptions of what “road safety” is about.
What’s the problem?
The THINK! strategy for drink driving is to deter those most at risk — men aged 17 to 34 — from having a second drink.
We think it worth noting that “those most at risk” are the drivers who kill themselves, not their potential victims. While some of the official reports refer to the number of people hurt or killed in accidents (sic) where a driver was over the legal limit, much of the reference is to those (as above) killed in incidents when they were over the legal limit. Right from the start there is a blurring of the distinction between those who are judged to be at risk of hurting/killing themselves and hurting/killing other people.