On the road the best protection for the driver of a vehicle and its passengers are not the airbag or the seatbelts: it is precaution. Respecting the traffic signs and rules of the road, promoting road safety, being attentive to the highway and staying within the speed limit is the best way in the world to safe lives at the wheel. And while most drivers know and obey this advice, it’s always necessary for governments and other organizations to remind us that we cannot let down our guard when we drive.
The 2013 Global Status Report on Road Safety Situation from the WHO declared that “injuries caused in transit are the world’s eighth cause of death and the first among young people from 15 to 29 years of age.” If this doesn’t change, it is estimated that by 2030 traffic accidents will become the fifth cause of death in the world.
Road safety campaigns have become a powerful factor in making people aware of the importance of driving with caution. And looking back, it’s surprising to discover how the first such campaigns were already talking about questions that are so prominent today and helps to improve road safety, such as the use of safetybelts, of helmets for motorcyclists, of cautions for pedestrians and of the consumption of alcohol.
For example, this one that was used in 1963 in the UK:
The advertising in those years was not as explicit as today. It limited itself to warning about the dangers and advising caution to drivers and pedestrians. But it did try to do so in the most attractive way possible, maybe keeping in mind that famous song by Mary Poppins that tried to gild the pill.
That’s why, in Spain, cartoons were used in the first ad campaigns launched in the 1960s by the Central Traffic Headquarters, the precursor of today’s DGT, or Directorate-General for Traffic.
As the number of vehicles grew in cities and highways, and as the dangers increased, road safety campaigns also were more numerous. That’s why a large number of these safety campaigns, especially in the 1980s, decided to graphically show the consequences of a road accident. In spite of their violence, these ads were tremendously effective. On other occasions, the ads used humor and inventiveness. And even music. But in all of them the aim was, and always is, the same: to raise awareness among people to avoid accidents, thus promoting road safety.
The most impactful international road safety campaigns.
These are some of the most successful international campaigns about road safety that have helped make people aware of when driving.
In the year 2000, the Transportation Department of the UK government launched the Think! platform, exclusively dedicated to road safety campaigns. One of the most powerful is this one, which warns of the effects that the human body can suffer in a collision if the passenger is not wearing a seatbelt.
Other times, road safety campaigns featured special actions instead of advertisements or graphics. This one, also by Think!, tried to dissuade pub customers from drinking and then driving.
Responsible young drivers
One of the most common causes of accidents in recent years is using a cell phone while driving. Michelin, Renault, Ethias and Europcar launched this initiative in Belgium to try to make young people aware of the dangers of using a cell phone while at the wheel. And what better way than making them experience it personally?
The dangers of the cell phone while driving is also the subject of this Volkswagen campaign that was carried out in Argentina. The unique Argentinian sense of humor keeps us in suspense while provoking a smile. But as can be seen, this subject is no laughing matter.
In 2016 the government of Northern Ireland launched a road safety campaign aimed at making young people aware of the dangers of not paying attention while driving. It’s not always the mobile phone that causes distractions: other passengers in the vehicle can also cause an accident because of this.
You’re about to have a very serious accident in which you will die. Can you imagine stopping time and making a correction? That’s what’s offered in the campaign from New Zealand.
DGT Safety Belt Campaign
Some years ago Spain’s Directorate-General for Traffic (DGT) launched a series of ad campaigns that were really powerful. Many people still remember the ads that starred singer Stevie Wonder, whose “If you drink, don’t drive” warned of this danger. Other ads weren’t as pleasant, and very graphically showed the consequences of a traffic accident. One of them is this warning about safety belts.
“If you drink, don’t drive”
Don’t risk looking death in the eye
It’s not just drivers and passengers who risk suffering an accident: pedestrians should also act responsibly. Crossing a street without looking first or in an inappropriate place or walking while using the cell phone can provoke more than just a scare, and sometimes it can be deadly. This French campaign warned about this in a simple but effective way.