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Road Safety: Should Shocking Car Adverts Be Banned?

November 6, 2015

  • Shocking NI road safety ad banned before the watershed
  • Risk of death approximately 4 times higher when pedestrians are hit at 40mph than 30mph
  • Motorists face up to 14 years in prison for causing death by drink driving

Shocking car adverts are designed to do just that: shock audiences. But over the years, companies have been accused of taking their tactics too far. From THINK!’s road safety ads to campaigns concerning dangerous driving, the British public have had their eyes opened when it comes to road safety – but is a shocking ad enough to make a difference?

As the weather worsens and road safety organisations work to bring our attention to the dangers of complacency behind the wheel, we’re taking a look at some of the most thought-provoking ad campaigns from recent years – and asking whether shocking adverts are having the desired effect or should be banned from our screens altogether.



While many road safety ads are relatively tame, others have been more shocking and divided opinion on more than one occasion. And from speeding to texting behind the wheel, some of the most shocking road safety ads from around the world are still being talked about.

Over the years, adverts have been accused of scaring children. But, in an attempt to hone in on the dangers of secondhand smoke, the latest in-car smoking ban advert showed a child inhaling cigarette smoke – raising more questions as to what is appropriate to air on TV.

In 2014, a road safety campaign came under scrutiny, as viewers found the footage to be disturbing and upsetting. The Northern Ireland campaign was designed to be a wake-up call which would highlight the fact that, statistically, a classroom of children have died since 2000 – due to speeding motorists. But with the ad showing graphic footage of the kids being killed by a speeding driver, complaints led to it being banned on TV before 9pm.

Do Shock Tactics Work?

Big night? You could be over the limit hours after your last drink, even the ‘morning after’. Don’t drink and drive. — THINK! road safety (@THINKgovuk) October 2, 2015

Over the years, some of the more powerful THINK! ads have included:

While some drivers think that these shocking adverts are unnecessary, others think that hard-hitting visual content is the only way to make motorists realise the risks surrounding road safety and, ultimately, reduce the number of road traffic accidents in the UK.

While figures might be on the decline, action is still needed to wipe out drink driving entirely – and in an effort to deter motorists from boozing before getting behind the wheel, anyone who causes death by careless driving when under the influence of alcohol could face up to 14 years in prison.

In November last year, the BBC reported on some of the most shocking drink driving adverts of the last 50 years. But, despite horrific and graphic imagery, motorists continue to dice with death on the UK’s roads – putting themselves and other members of the public in danger every day.

Think. Don’t Drink


Last year, a controversial TV ad was run to inform viewers that drink driving deaths had dropped from 1,640 to 230 in the last 50 years – highlighting the fact that 230 is still too many lives to lose.

As Christmas creeps closer, we can expect to see some old and new drink driving adverts appearing on our TV screens. For some, the temptation of a few post-work pints is all too much – and with uncertainty surrounding the drink drive limit, a trip to the pub often leads to one drink too many.

Research figures have shown that a pedestrian who is hit at 40mph rather than 30mph is four times more likely to die – and with alcohol affecting your perceptions and awareness of speed, is it really worth the risk?

About The Author

Jon Le Roux is co-founder and company director of The Car Loan Warehouse. Being a mad engineering and motorsport enthusiast, I spend more hours than is healthy, watching, reading or talking about cars, boats, motorbikes…..basically anything with an engine.