Road Safety News

BBC faces complaints about ‘Barely Legal Drivers’

Thursday 11th April 2013

286 viewers have complained to the BBC about its ‘Barely Legal Drivers’ series and 45 people have contacted Ofcom, according to a report in Metro.

In Barely Legal Drivers (BBC3) young drivers take to the road in the family car, unaware that their parents are watching through state-of-the-art cameras placed in the cars. The series shows real footage of aggressive, dangerous and illegal behaviour by young drivers.

Avon and Somerset Constabulary, the local police force where one of the participants lives, is reported to be looking into the behaviour shown.

Superintendent Paul Richards said: "We are investigating the driving offences being committed on the programme and are considering prosecution. At the very least, we condemn such irresponsible behaviour and would reassure everyone that we treat it extremely seriously."

In response, a BBC spokesman said: "Barely Legal Drivers highlights the issue that young drivers in the UK are some of the most dangerous in Europe. It’s about making young people better drivers."

Commenting on the programme, The National Federation of Young Farmers' Clubs (NFYFC), which has developed its own young driver campaign, warned against the danger of glamourising or condoning bad driving.

Milly Wastie, NFYFC chairman,  said: "While we think that programmes that promote safer driver are a good idea in principle, they need to ensure they do not glamourise or condone bad driving.

"We are working with our 25,000 members to promote safer driving, particularly on rural roads, as we know that young drivers who live in rural areas are 37% more likely to be involved in a road traffic incident than those from urban areas. Our Drive it Home campaign, supported by NFU Mutual, is working to save lives on rural roads."

In total, there will be six one-hour episodes of Barely Legal Drivers. The first and second episodes are available on BBC iPlayer. The third episode will be broadcast on BBC3 on Tuesday 16 April at 9.00pm.

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With requards to superintendant Paul Richards quote "investigating the driving offences being committed on the programme and are considering prosecution", does this also apply to the offence on BBC News where a member of the BBC film crew was clearly hanging out of the side window of a car with no seat belt on, taking photographs of an Aston Martin? Will this be investigated as it is clearly breaking many road traffic acts?
carrie-leanne blake. from wiltshire.

Agree (0) | Disagree (1)

This is irresponsible broadcasting by the BBC. Filming individuals committing road traffic offences is not clever. More thought should be taken on what the unconscious effect of such broadcasting will have on some peoples future behaviour. This is a type of conditioning, or normalising simply by virtue of the fact that it has been recorded and aired with no consequences to the individuals concerned.
Tom Ingram Driving Instructor in Bourne, Lincs

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Marmalade is a champion for young drivers, we provide insurance products which are aligned to safer, responsible driving. BBC3 is demonising this generation with heavily edited footage which is quite irresponsible in our opinion. Hopefully a separate programme on 24 April will be more constructive when it comes to road safety issues:

Driving should be safe but fun. How about the BBC shows two impeccable drivers? Perhaps they're saving that for the final show! There is talk about improving road safety by imposing restrictions among young drivers but has anyone actually asked young people what they think would work? Perhaps more engagement with this age group would be a good starting point?
Crispin Moger, MD Marmalade, Peterborough

Agree (9) | Disagree (1)

The problem does need highlighting and bringing to the forefront. The incident stats relating to adolescent and immature driving incidents speak for themselves. Instead of clearing up the mess after an incident, why are these drivers not targeted by the Police? Irresponsible driving displays are a daily occurrence. Take them off the road. Harsh - tell that to the injured parties.
David Matthews Desborough Northamptonshire

Agree (5) | Disagree (3)

The programme did nothing to change the male driver's attitude towards driving - in fact it probably made it worse. I agree many young drivers try to drive well and I remember making mistakes that I would rather forget but they were mistakes and not deliberate dangerous acts.

I think it is sad that drivers do not seek to improve their ability and knowledge and need a "carrot" to do so - that is showing a poor attitude in the first place! Until compulsory measures are brought in for all drivers (further training for new drivers and refresher courses for others) then things won't change.

Attitudes also need to be tackled well before the age of 17. Early intervention is essential.
Lucy, Scotland

Agree (10) | Disagree (1)

I am sickened at this programme. The female voice advertising this programme seems to be making light of it as though it is a laugh and even in her tone half laughing. My own wife was a victim of a hit and run 20 years ago and she is still and always will be disabled. The driving examiners who passed these morons should, themselves, be struck off. The Police should investigate these barely legal drivers and prosecute them and their driving licences revoked. When you are driving a car, you are driving half a ton of metal at speed and it is a very serious thing.
Ed D'Silva, Kent

Agree (5) | Disagree (2)

This programme projects an image that young people all drive like this all of the time, this is simply not true! Most young people work very hard to arrive safely. What is most disappointing is that this is not the image shown and there is a very real danger that programmes like this will increase the social pressure on young people to duplicate the actions being shown. I cannot imagine a programme that could be worse in this respect.
Ian Edwards Doncaster

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I'm sure you're right Honor but RSOs don't work in a vacuum, there are a multitude of influencing factors.

Young adults now have to pay for university, may have great difficulty getting a job, car insurance is at prohibitive prices, excessive punishments for minor traffic infringements when driving safely including being banned if they get 2 fines and it's other people that have caused these problems. Young drivers could be forgiven if they believe they are under attack.

That is not an environment that generally gets the best out of anyone, especially young people, and Bradley's response in rejecting advanced lessons may represent a far wider problem.

I don't know what the BBC are planning for this programme, but they need to be very careful to be clear about the quality of evidence that is available for whatever interventions they report on.
Dave, Slough

Agree (12) | Disagree (1)

Professional road safety officers are very experienced at engaging with and relating to young people. This is core to our professional training and practice, our bread and butter and we do it all the time - mostly not in public view. This approach through schools, colleges, organisations and within local communities means we can work more effectively to influence the attitudes and behaviours of young drivers and their passengers and peer groups.

Also, it is important not to confuse a driving instructor or a roads policing officer with a professional road safety officer. Whilst these and other professions are related to road safety, their and our roles, training and purpose are fundamentally different. So far as I am aware, no road safety officers were involved with this particular series - it might have looked very different if they had been.
Honor Byford, Vice Chair RSGB

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I agree Hugh, although I was going to say that an acting traffic cop might have to prosecute when presented with evidence of criminal offences (speeding etc) before I found that the RSGB story has changed to suggest prosecutions may follow.

What the programme did highlight was how NOT to positively influence people, particularly young people. Bradley was trying to be safe and responsible but what did he get? Severe criticism of his driving leading him to turn down the offer of advanced driving lessons. This is just one downside of the punitive approach causing people to become alienated.

Road safety professionals need to earn the respect of younger drivers before engaging them in the subject of road safety, otherwise they may do more harm than good. Using the power of the state to force through the message that legal equals safe, is potentially dangerous.
Dave, Slough

Agree (8) | Disagree (3)

Perhaps the Police should - resources permitting - also study all driving instances on TV - like presenters turning sideways to talk to the camera or even talking to a camera, at all whilst driving.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (15) | Disagree (1)

They appear to be offering Skid Pan Training as part of an Advanced Course. Nice corporate entertainment and a jolly for them, but ever has skid pan training had any benefit to that particular age group 17 - 25? Other than to boost their perceived ability to cope.

Agree (18) | Disagree (0)

Dave: I think we have to accept that the BBC's priority was not to make a serious road safety programme, but just a reality TV show with yet another angle or theme, so I wouldn't hold your breath waiting for any serious content. It might have been better if they had had a less forgiving, serving traffic officer to appraise rather than an ex-cop. Also, I don't see the point of an Advanced Driving course as a remedy if they can't even get the basics right.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (12) | Disagree (1)

I too noticed that, Hugh. The former traffic cop was appalled that the young driver went through 3 red lights (though he actually went through 2, the 1st was amber) yet seemed to fail to observe that the driver of the camera car following thought the young drivers behaviour was so safe, that he did the same.

The former traffic cop also stated that she would have given the young driver a fine and 3 points for speeding but seemed to fail to observe that he was just keeping up with traffic, so which of the speeding cars would she have pulled?

The former traffic cop justified giving a ticket because at 30mph 80% of pedestrians survive … etc but seemed to fail to observe that there were no pedestrians to hit!

The BBC needs to improve their research and start producing road safety programmes based on evidence.
Dave, Slough

Agree (8) | Disagree (6)

Let’s not forget, it’s just another glamourized reality TV programme with the necessary creative editing to make it more watchable with the odd emotional twist thrown in for ‘suspense’. For every wayward, exuberant teenager which are the typical subjects of the programme, there are many who aren’t like this and who drive sensibly and responsibly but who wouldn’t make good television.

As for any road safety benefit, there are clips that could be usefully shown to target audiences how not to behave and at least it’s real-life and not another reconstruction.
One final point - in last night’s episode (April 9) one of the subject’s cars was seen to exceed the speed limit and go through two red lights – was it necessary for the following camera car to do the same? On the other hand, why let a couple of fundamental traffic laws get in the way of a reality TV programme!
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (14) | Disagree (0)

It can be good for road safety if we use it as a subject for engaging with younger road users and/or their parents through the right channels.
Dave, Leeds

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I suppose that the question that should really be asked is what can the road safety industry learn from programmes like this?

Of course what we see are the edited highlights so any response we make will be biased towards what we see rather than what we don't see which would be hour after hour of boring footage where nothing much happens and the youngsters behave as normally as everybody else.

Boring subject matter doesn't make for good TV, but it would be an education for us if we could arrange to see ALL the footage, before jumping to any conclusions.
Duncan MacKillop, Stratford on Avon

Agree (21) | Disagree (2)

Put myself through 1 hour of pain in the office this morning watching this on Iplayer.
So where is the Road Safety Message? Parents seem to condone & justify the actions of their offspring. 100 mph on motorway "only just over the limit and not dangerous" and "he would not normally drink & drive". Finally Chantelle does not use her mobile phone when driving because she told the camera crew so. This again appears to be another pointless TV programme possibly aimed at boosting ratings within a certain demographic group.

Having been involved in roadsafety for 29 years I still maintain it will often take the outcome of an incident to hit either a family or an individual at a personal level before change occurs. After all it is where some of the big road safety organisations have come from.

As a student I remember doing things both driving and bike riding that I would renounce family for if they did. The only thing that seemed to make a change was maturity. However, I am also realistic that no serious road safety programme will ever get the ratings that the BBC are after.

Agree (31) | Disagree (2)