Road Safety News

DOE launches “sensitive and powerful” speeding ad

Monday 23rd June 2014

The Department of Environment Northern Ireland’s (DOENI) latest road safety advertisement shows a class of primary school aged children being mown down by a car which has gone out of control and left the road.

Entitled 'Classroom', the ad is intended to depict the fact that the equivalent of a classroom of children (28) have lost their lives as a result of speeding since 2000.

The DOENI describes it as its “most sensitive and powerful road safety campaign yet”.

An article in the Belfast Telegraph describes the ad as “brutal” and says it has been banned from being shown before the 9.00pm watershed.

The ad can be viewed here on YouTube but please be aware of the note above about the 9.00pm watershed.

Mark H Durkan, Northern Ireland’s road safety minister, said: “This campaign is a real wake up call. It is a particularly sensitive and compelling message.

“After all, what could be more thought provoking than the realisation that, since 2000, the equivalent of a classroom of children have been killed as a result of speeding.

“What a tragic legacy. Let’s be clear – speeding is not cool and it is not glamorous. Neither is it about control nor about ‘being able to handle it’.

“Speeding is shockingly shameful. People are losing their lives long before they have the chance to fulfil their potential. Families are being destroyed forever. Already this year 31 people have died on our roads.

“The fact is, excessive speed remains the single biggest principal factor behind road deaths in Northern Ireland, and is responsible for a quarter of fatalities.

“Therefore, the aim of this campaign is to challenge and dispel, once and for all, through this emotional and uncomfortable message, the false perceptions that many road users have as to the truly horrifying consequences of speeding.”

The DOENI points to research which shows that drivers who speed think they are in control, “but the evidence proves that speeding leads to uncontrollable consequences”.

The driver in the advert is described as “quite ordinary, perhaps just a bit over the speed limit; but when things go wrong, the consequences are horrific”.

The DOENI also says that “research shows that drivers tend to rationalise speeding as a casual factor in a collision, and tend to blame an unexpected event on a collision rather than their own behaviour when driving too fast for the conditions”.

The ad was first aired on UTV on 16 June.


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Another example of the mantra. 97% of accidents are explained by traffic density. Pedestrians commit on average two serious road safety errors and according to the police are 95% responsible for the accidents in which they are involved. Non-speeding drivers are involved in 95% of accidents. A skilled driver selecting a speed above the limit, as two thirds of UK drivers do, is demonstrably safer than the non-speeding driver, typically twice as safe in fatalities, five times safer across all accidents. Yet there are no laws to penalise parents, pedestrians or non-speeding drivers for causing or being involved in 95% of accidents. The government prefers the easy collar to the difficult issue of dealing with those dangerous road users. I'd suggest people read the facts, not the fiction. Speeding, A policy of Deception.
Andrew Mather, UK

Agree (1) | Disagree (1)

Having waited three months for a response from Mr Greenway of the DOE, I will provide my own.....

The video in discussion is where a young male driver is speeding, his car skids and crashes through a thick stone wall (cough cough) and overturns a few times and mows down a classroom of kiddies.

However, according to the PSNI stats, between 2008 and 2013 - that's six years, four pedestrians of school age were killed by vehicles. No vehicle exceeded the speed limit. None of the drivers were young men.

From a report on pedestrian fatalities in Northern Ireland. One school child was killed by a relative driving at approx. 7 mph, another teenage male was on his way to school in the morning and was struck after he walked out in front of the car from behind another car. Another was killed by walking late at night on a rural road in the dark in the same direction of travel as the car. Finally a 16 year old walked out in front of a bus in the rain. The remainder were pre-school age toddlers.

If however we start looking at young people killed as passengers of vehicles - there were six aged up to 16 years killed between 2009 and 2013 - but that is a completely separate issue - because there is no information available as to the age or sex of the driver.

Statistics are required to provide evidence that "something" is making a difference - but the fact is that the shock tactics haven't worked - and the proof of that is in the pudding - fatalities this year have increased.

So I don't understand why the DOE believes that subjecting everybody to this anachronistic medieval ideology of public executions will change behaviour? I don't understand why the DOE targets young men speeding as being responsible for the deaths of school children, when there is no evidence to support that proposition.

In the rest of the civilised world, instructive, intelligent campaigns are inclined to grab attention equally as much and be more effective, at least there is not a rush to change the channel.
Elaine, Northern Ireland

Agree (2) | Disagree (1)

Dear Mr Greenway,

Thank you for your response, however you have not answered my question(s).

I would like to know how many of the 28 children killed as a result of speeding since 2000 were pedestrians struck by a young male driver? This is what the advertisement infers.

Of the 28 killed due to speed (out of a total of 113) were all of school age? This is what the advertisement infers.

Simply I would like a breakdown of the circumstances of these 28 children killed due to speeding. Were they all pedestrians? If not what were the circumstances e.g. were they passengers in the speeding car or in a car that collided with another (speeding) car?

Finally were all the drivers involved young male drivers? If not, could you please provide a breakdown of the age and sex of the drivers.

If you could answer my question(s) I would appreciate it.
Elaine Northern Ireland

Agree (2) | Disagree (1)

It's well worth persevering with the content of Mr Gullon's website as he has a very good theory to offer. His idea that "The fundamental traffic safety problem is the mentally distracted driver" is one that leads to all sorts of interesting thoughts and ideas.
Duncan MacKillop, Stratford on Avon

Agree (4) | Disagree (0)

The errors and bad judgement seemingly observed by the above posters are nothing of the sort. A quick visit to my website (rallye route follows) will show a more credible explanation for the precipitating cause of all roadway crashes. The same phenomenon has now been shown in 18 countries, every inhabited continent.

Check out the "technical 'whodunnit' " - click 'Traffic Safety' on the home page then the second line of the menu - a pleasant 15 minutes with a mystery story might just save your life one not-so-fine day - an', for a smile or two, don't miss The Police Report on line 6.

Those with family or friends in the 16-25 age group must direct them to Section 10.3 of the Paris paper on line 3 which explains the bad crash record of young drivers. And drivers of all ages should read Section 12.2.2 which shows the best way the author has found to mitigate, at least partially, ampSYdalalu - see Cellphones on line 5 for a definition of AMPS.
Al Gullon, Ottawa, ON, Canada

Agree (3) | Disagree (0)

The same things do happen over here as well Trevor and whilst individual accidents are not normally discussed on the website, the whys and wherefores of road accidents (generally) are, which is to be expected on a Road Safety website surely?
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (1) | Disagree (1)

While all this meaningful discussion has taken place here in Northern Ireland, the home of the DOE road safety adverts, we have had two motorcycle fatalities in which the driver of a car has been reported as also having lost their life. Tthis brings in total for 2014 - eight riders who have been killed on our roads.

However, it is just not riders who are dying on our roads. With these two fatalities, five people have died on our roads in other vehicles in the past four days and others including pedestrians have been seriously injured.

These fatalities will have been attended by the Forensic Road Traffic Collision investigators and most likely a PSNI photographer and mapper. The files that the investigators prepare include photographs of the collision scene, witness statements, as well as maps, diagrams, laboratory examinations and their findings which are compiled in a report. Each accident investigation takes approximately six months to complete and there may also be a Coroners’ report and verdict.

So please no debate on the whys and wherefores to these poor souls' deaths.
Trevor Baird Northern Ireland

Agree (4) | Disagree (3)

Re- your last paragraph...speak for yourself! It would indeed be a poor show if those whose job it was to prevent road accidents did not practice what they preached! I understand your view that there are some who unknowingly or naively even, drive unsafely simply because they do not know any better or are not ‘tuned in’ to the act of safe driving/riding on the roads, but I would suggest that the consequences of their lack of ability and foresight is not as risky to themselves or others, as of those who do know better and who knowingly break the rules, take risks, have a cavalier attitude to the Highway Code etc. Whichever category the person comes in, you can't say it's not poor road user behaviour - it may sometimes be unintentional, but a lot of times, not so unintentional.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (3) | Disagree (8)

I see a great many unsafe acts Hugh, but the problem is that the people involved usually don't know they're doing them. Take as an example the 'nightmare overtake', a significant killer of motorcyclists and motorists alike. We give it this interesting name not because the rider that's doing the overtake is having nightmares about it, but instead it is the person observing the rider that gets the sleepless nights!

The only reason that a rider will make an overtake is because he has determined that he will be able to carry out the manouvre successfully and for no other reason. There are not many riders who think that they won't make the next overtake (apart from the odd psychpath), but they'll do it anyway just to see what pans out.

The reasons for people being unaware that they are doing unsafe acts is not simply because of a lack of education, but because they may have done the same thing thousands of times before without anything untoward happening. This is the basis of the statement that Murphy's law is wrong, what can go wrong usually goes right and then we draw the wrong conclusions as to why. Our brain therefore will always prefer the facts of our own experience over the facts of other people's. You can pump out a message that 'speed kills' to your hearts content, but people will still 'know' from their own direct experience that it clearly doesn't.

There is probably not a single person contributing to this forum that does not commit at least one unsafe act on every journey they make, but they will be doing so in blissful ignorance of how close to disaster they have actually come.
Duncan MacKillop, Stratford on Avon

Agree (10) | Disagree (1)

With all due respect, from your comments occasionally I sometimes wonder if you ever venture out on to the roads and observe the real-life behaviour of other road users at all or, if you do, you appear to see everything through rose-tinted spectacles when nobody ever does anything risky or unsafe!
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (5) | Disagree (6)

Interesting to read that Mr Greenway thinks that "almost all collisions and casualties are, after all, caused by poor road user behaviour." Maybe Northern Ireland is different to the rest of the world where most casualties happen when ordinary people with normal behaviours who are going about their normal activities end up having a road accident. Of course you can't make much of a headline from information like that can you?
Duncan MacKillop, Stratford on Avon

Agree (8) | Disagree (8)

We use a number of the DOE adverts in our young driver education programme (some of which date back to 1995!) and although our advertising savvy generation of 16-25 year olds know they are clearly reconstructions, it is the discussion around the events shown in the adverts that give real learning to the audience. I personally like the concept of this advert. I just wish it wasn't Northern Ireland specific so I could use it. :)
Rhiannon, Lancashire

Agree (6) | Disagree (4)

As the person who signed off the concept for this campaign and its realisation, I have read with interest this debate (and indeed many others on more public forums). I should perhaps comment on a few of the comments:

DOE works VERY closely with those 'at the coal face', including casualties of road collisions, and all of the emergency services. We and our road safety partners use a variety of interventions to influence people's attitudes and behaviours - almost all collisions and casualties are, after all, caused by poor road user behaviour. This includes a variety of education, as part of which we have a suite of advertising campaigns. Some are hard hitting and some are not. Each of the campaigns is thoroughly researched. In this case, we identified the need for a new anti-speeding campaign, as our existing material was becoming dated and excess speed for the conditions is still (in NI) the main causation factor for road deaths - deemed responsible for 25% of fatalities. The research - which included focus groups - identified that people rationalise away speed as the cause of the collision and its consequences. A variety of statements were tested during the research, and the statement that a classroom of children have been killed by speeding since 2000 was identified as very powerful in its ability to change attitudes and behaviours. This led to the development of the campaign that has led to this - and many other - debates on road safety.

Our research doesn't stop with the signing off of a campaign. Tracking research shows very high levels of influence from DOE's campaigns, and consistent agreement that they are important. I recognise that the mix of campaigns in NI is different from those in Britain - but we research very closely to understand and address the attitudes of people in NI. Our campaigns may be emotive, but they are certainly not slapstick or irrational (to pick up words from the debate to date).

All of our work in NI is within the banner of 'Road to Zero' - that one death is too many and that the 'scandal of tolerance' around casualties on our roads needs to be addressed. This is constant work.
Iain Greenway, Northern Ireland

Agree (15) | Disagree (6)

"Driving too fast for the conditions prevailing at the time" is a good example of a 'counterfactual' something that puts knowledge only available after an event into the heads of people operating before an event.

“They (counterfactuals) make you spend your time talking about a reality that did not happen (but if it had happened, the mishap would not have happened).” (Dekker, 2006)
Duncan MacKillop, Stratford on Avon

Agree (4) | Disagree (6)

From the body of the report:

"Speeding is shockingly shameful" and "The fact is. excessive speed......"

If an average driver read this report they would immediately consider it (to be) talking about drivers who speed, and that as they don't it doesn't relate to them. This gives a false attitude. Rather than use those words I feel that the use of "inappropriate speed in some circumstance" or "driving too fast for the conditions prevailing at the time" would suit this better, and bring many more drivers into an understanding that it's not just about speeding over the limit as some presume it to be. Something that they can identify with rather than 'it doesn't apply to me'.
bob craven Lancs

Agree (11) | Disagree (0)


I think you are missing the point of the advert. I suspect it wasn't to show that a single speeding incident could kill 30 children, but that the scale of death from speeding is not something we would tolerate if it happened at one time and in one place. It's the nature of road casualties being spread throughout the land and time rather than in one incident that enables us all to ignore its scale.

Imagine if road deaths were seen as a Hillsborough every 3 weeks, or indeed if every road fatality were flown in to Brize Norton and the coffins daily paraded through Wootton Bassett High Street then maybe we would think slightly differently about their scale.

And so adverts like these remind us that thankfully road casualties are rare enough for us not to be daily confronted with their consequence, but tragically common enough to cause real and unnecessary pain, suffering and loss of life throughout the land.
Rod King, 20's Plenty for Us

Agree (10) | Disagree (12)

I think drivers over-relying on ESC and other safety "features" causes accidents as they will create a false belief that they are invincible (in other words wreckless/dangerous driving). That in itself presents a danger to themselves and everyone else.
Phil, Kent

Agree (4) | Disagree (0)

Why speeding? This imaginary accident could be used to say don't drink/drive, or check for damaged/under-inflated tyres, or don't use your mobile phone.

But even if the driver was a fraction above the limit (as suggested), the actual cause was the driver failed to correctly assess the hazard (corner), failed to recognise the onset of over-steer, and then failed to control the over-steer. One solution could be skid-pan training but I could not find a single skin-pan venue in NI. Another is to promote ESC (Electronic Stability Control). But if drivers who could not correctly assess hazards followed the advice in the advert and were to look down at their speedometers directly before every corner, I suspect more accidents would occur including more dead children.

Despite such emotive and irrational advertising, I still believe a calm and rational debate about speed management is possible.
Dave Finney, Slough

Agree (9) | Disagree (7)

Although the incident in the video is simulated and the consequences overly dramatic, the way the driver loses control is typical and happens somewhere, everyday and is not difficult to understand and doesn't require a road traffic collision investigator to understand or explain it.

As regards watching accidents on You Tube, it's quite offensive to suggest that it's 'ghoulish' and a 'turn-on' for those who watch it when they have a strong interest or even a passion, in preventing accidents. There are examples of carelessness, recklessness, speeding, tailgating, poor control, poor observation, poor anticipation, poor concentration, poor judgment - in fact the whole gamut of factors leading up to accidents - far more informative than statistics and Stats 19 'causation factors' and anyone claiming to be genuinely interested in road accident investigation and prevention should look and learn from them. It’s no more ‘ghoulish’ than researching motorcycle fatalities.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (6) | Disagree (0)

Question: do these statistics only refer to pedestrians and school age children or do they also include children that were passengers in speeding cars and pre-school age children. If that is the case then the advert is misleading.

With regards to watching people die in RTCs on youtube I guess there is inevitably a ghoulish interest in these videos which appears to turn people on. The fact remains that these videos cannot explain the circumstances leading to the collision, nor the speed, nor indeed the outcome of the collision.

The people that can explain the circumstances of road traffic collisions are the road traffic collision investigators. I just wonder if the agency that produced this video bothered to contact them and if not, why not?

Considering the fact that this advertising agency is contracted to the DOE, at the very least, the DOE and the agency should be working closely with those on the coal face.

Agree (7) | Disagree (4)

I think it's about time that public bodies stop wasting money on negative and pretentious "public information films" (or whatever they want to call them). Those sort of slapstick "campaigns" will only alienate members of the public.

A far better approach would be the following:-

- learn from history (good and bad examples).
- learn from other recent better examples.
- create a positive message to all road users.
- education for all road users instead of persecution.
- advanced driver training (eg. how to handle a vehicle instead of the usual "kill your speed" nonsense).

A far better example of a fairly recent road safety public information website (and clips) is the "Country Roads - Don't Risk It" presented by David Coulthard

Maybe various forms of officialdom could learn from that and apply some form of common sense instead.
Phil, Kent

Agree (13) | Disagree (6)

You're splitting hairs - it's probably a combination of all three really, but we know that realistically, a 'sensitive and powerful ad' highlighting "misjudgment" is not going to be as attention-grabbing!
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (8) | Disagree (6)

As observed for a similar story recently, this incident as presented is not about speeding but is actually an example misjudgement and/or lack of concentration, possibly due to lack of maturity. I agree with Hugh, crashes on YouTube (especially Russian dash-cam) show the variety of real crashes and causes, and present a far more powerful message.
Eric Bridgstock, Independent Road Safety Research, St Albans

Agree (8) | Disagree (11)

These sort of road safety ads are well produced and do try to be as realistic as possible, but I suspect cynical viewers know at the back of their minds that they are not 'real' and the message may not therefore be as hard-hitting as might be wished for.
For anyone involved in road safety education who regularly shows these sort of videos, I would recommend instead showing the real-life, everyday accidents to be found on You Tube - far more chilling and hard-hitting and no-one can be cynical because they have actually happened.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (8) | Disagree (3)