Road safety is of paramount importance in this country, and deaths from car accidents have steadily decreased in recent years. Out of the 33 countries assessed by the Paris-based International Transport Forum (ITF), the UK is now proudly the safest country in which to drive, with 3.8 per 100,000 of the population dying on the roads in 2009, compared to 23.8 in Malaysia, which had the highest death toll.
This is to be applauded; in fact it seems that last year was something of a high watermark for road safety across the world, with 30 of the countries assessed registering a decline, leading the last ten years to be described by the ITF as a “record decade for road safety”.
This is due to a combination of more stringent driving tests, better policing, safer cars, and greater awareness. Yesterday Accident Advice Helpline News described the changing attitudes towards speeding in this country. The common assertion is that excess speed kills, pure and simple. This is not strictly true; the average speed of motorway traffic is much greater than elsewhere, and despite accounting for 25% of a car’s mileage in its lifetime, only 6% of car accident fatalities occur on this type of road. It is speeding in built-up areas that remains the biggest threat to human lives; the well-used mantra ‘It’s 30 (miles per hour) for a reason’ continues to be ignored by many motorists, of all ages and both sexes, because they are ‘careless, reckless, or in a hurry’ (according to a 2008 Association of British Drivers report).
Given the UK’s impressive record, it is hard, therefore, not to raise an eyebrow when some well-meaning but poorly-conceived road safety campaigns are launched.
A billboard in Yorkshire has come in for some criticism after it, very ironically, has been posted near a dangerous bend bearing the legend, ‘Oiii, eyes on the road’ before continuing, ‘What’s so important? Concentrate on the road’ in smaller text.
One man who uses the route regularly said,
“I can understand the message but surely placing a poster like this on a very difficult bend is going to cause someone to crash.”
“I think it’s bad enough anyway they are trying to get people to concentrate on the road, but surely for this message to get across, people would have to read it.”
This echoes a safety drive in Italy, where campaigners placed a series of wrecked cars, from real-life fatal car accidents, along a stretch of road in Lodi. Each vehicle was adorned with a large yellow jigsaw piece, the premise of which was that speed is the missing jigsaw piece that causes the crashes.
Of course, curious motorists became distracted by the arresting sight, and police have reported a significant increase in collisions since the wrecks appeared.
On the other hand, there are billboards that have nothing to do with road safety but still hold so many gazes that accidents are an inevitable consequence.
Wonderbra is the main culprit here – in 1994 its advert featuring a scantily clad Eva Herzigova greeting male onlookers with the slogan ‘Hello Boys’ was blamed for increased car accidents up and down the country, presumably due to male drivers, one assumes.
Now, they are trying to bring that campaign into the 21st century with a new 3D poster of Brazilian model Sabraine Banando, which was unveiled outside Waterloo station yesterday, again to a wave of criticism from road safety commentators. The fact that the poster is rendered slightly out-of-focus unless the viewer is sporting 3D glasses makes it even more likely an accident will result, they say, as the observer will have to concentrate more than usual to see it.
And in July, Reebok launched an advert in the capital featuring curvaceous model Kelly Brook completely naked (except for a pair of trainers).
If these sort of advertising patterns continue, it seems like safety champions will have their work cut out.