Road Safety News

A novel approach to highlighting mobile phone dangers

Thursday 12th June 2014

Volkswagen has created a clever ad to highlight the dangers that a mobile phone poses for drivers, which has been viewed more than 13 million times on YouTube since launch on 6 June.

The interactive PSA (public service announcement) was filmed at the MCL Cinema in Hong Kong.

Hidden cameras show the audience watching a ‘movie’ which was in fact a driving simulation; everybody in the audience then receives a ‘location-based’ text message from someone behind the scenes, and the car crashes as they reach to answer their phone.

A message displayed on the screen said: "Mobile use is now the leading cause of death behind the wheel. A reminder to keep your eyes on the road."

While there appears to be some uncertainty as to whether the audience knew about the ad prior to filming, in just a matter of days it has gone viral and amassed more than 13 million YouTube views.



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Over 20 million youtube views now. It would have been interesting to have seen more of the audience reaction after the message was put on screen and if a genuine intervention, a fly on the wall with a recording device to pick up the audience comments immediately afterwards. However, the immediate audience reaction is incredibly powerful. We should applaud VW's innovative attempt to raise awareness in this way.
Robert Dorset

Agree (13) | Disagree (0)

One does not need 'Bluetooth' facilities for hands free mobile phoning. My almost ancient Nokia with plugged in wired earpiece automatically set to answer, did exactly that, and also hung up after the caller ended the call. But that system did not allow calls to be made unless you stopped and parked up.

The idea of being able to instigate calls and search phone books whilst attempting to drive, I find abominable. Whilst at the controls of a motor vehicle, driving is priority number one.

As a despatch rider for many years an incoming call took enough attention away from riding that I automatically backed off from making progress to going with the flow for greater safety. Perhaps enforcement for all to ride two wheels with no pillion seat, and a device that disables any wireless communication whilst wheels are turning. In effect - going back to a pre-mobile phone/radio in the car/passengers isolated from the driver era.

We have ourselves to blame, as manufacturers clamour for our orders for more.
Derek Reynolds, Salop.

Agree (6) | Disagree (3)

In the 16 hours since we published this story the film has attracted a further 4 million YouTube views - the total now stands at more than 17 million.

Rather than finding fault, I suggest we should universally applaud a brilliantly creative piece of work this is delivering an important road safety message on an almost unprecedented scale.
Nick Rawlings, editor, Road Safety News

Agree (40) | Disagree (2)

I think it gets a message across superbly. And the data (if it be such) would appear to be American based from a health website.
Derek Reynolds, Salop.

Agree (11) | Disagree (0)

Readers may wish to take a look at some of VW's other marketing information on the use of mobile phones in cars.

Taken from the Passat brochure at

"05 Bluetooth telephone connection* allows you to use your mobile phone without taking it out of your pocket. The phone book and call information is displayed on the multifunction computer and the system can be easily operated using the leather trimmed three-spoke multifunction steering wheel."

As hands free phones still provide significant levels of driver distraction, one wonders at how sincere VW's campaign is.
Rod King, 20's Plenty for Us

Agree (7) | Disagree (6)

"If only everything in life was as reliable as a VW advert!"
Gareth, Surrey

Agree (12) | Disagree (0)

The doorbell rings at the same time as the phone rings. Which one do you attend to first? Most people will answer the phone first, tell the caller to hang on and then go and answer the door. The reason why this happens can be found in the study of persistence and our in-built responses to anything that 'nags'. Tiny babies squall and cry until someone attends to them, children 'pester' until someone buys them the toy they want and phones ring until they are answered. The doorbell rings just once to begin with and so doesn't trigger the 'you must attend to this' response. This response which is always triggered by a ringing phone is so strong that it easily makes people deviate from current activities and plans.

Once the call has been answered all sorts of other communication imperatives kick in, but those are problems for another day.
Duncan MacKillop, Stratford on Avon

Agree (13) | Disagree (1)

I suppose it may be possible that “Mobile use is now the leading cause of death behind the wheel” in America, although Rod's link (thanks Rod) doesn't appear to support that claim. Mobiles certainly don't seem anywhere near the leading cause of death here in Britain.

Latest figures (2012) show that “Driver using mobile phone” was a factor in 17 out of 1,497 (1%) of fatal collisions here in GB making it not the 1st or 2nd, but the 40th factor. Download contributoryfactors.xls in 1.2 here:

Aside from the dubious claim though, Volkswagen's film is a novel, well presented and engaging alert to the dangers of using a mobile and should provoke much discussion.
Dave Finney, Slough

Agree (13) | Disagree (2)

Odd that two people can disagree with similar questions from Duncan and me.

Rod points to a story but it does not support the original statement. The report at the heart of this story comes from the US Safety Council and the headline relates to "younger people", for whom "motor vehicle crashes caused the most injury deaths, with distractions caused by cellphones contributing significantly to those crashes".

I do not condone mobile use while driving, but nor do I condone headlines that exaggerate a story.
Eric Bridgstock, Independent Road Safety Research, St Albans

Agree (5) | Disagree (11)

VW should be commended for this incredible advert which contains a vital message in a way that's extremely relevant - would be great to use in a presentation too!
John Billington Room 9 Media

Agree (20) | Disagree (0)

Try Google - I did:
Rod King, 20's Plenty for Us

Agree (5) | Disagree (2)

Anyone know what evidence supports "Mobile use is now the leading cause of death behind the wheel"?
Eric Bridgstock, Independent Road Safety Research, St Albans

Agree (3) | Disagree (5)

Mobile use is now the leading cause of death behind the wheel? Is that really true or is it another example of opinion dressed up as fact?
Duncan MacKillop, Stratford on Avon

Agree (4) | Disagree (6)