Road Safety News

Classified ad delivers safety message

Monday 23rd June 2014

People responding to a classified ad for a powerful car offered at a bargain price heard how the ‘owner' had crashed and killed a child, rather than the expected details about the car itself.

The ad was part of a campaign by Mayo County Council in Ireland designed to highlight the dangers of careless driving. The campaign was supported by the DoneDeal website, where the ad for a Subaru WRX Impreza appeared.

5,292 potential buyers viewed the ad and hundreds rang the contact number, to be greeted by the ‘seller’ John - an actor who delivered the following message: "John here. Sorry I can’t answer the call. If you’re calling about the car, yes I still have if for sale. I have it about six months. It’s quick, so quick I didn’t even see her. By the time I did, it was too late. She was only six years old for God’s sake. Make me an offer and take it away. I can’t stand looking at it anymore…just don’t drive it like I did.”

The message ended: “Brought to you by Mayo County Council as part of a road safety campaign.”

On the final day of the campaign the ad included a message from Mayo's road safety team explaining that it was part of a safety campaign.

Noel Gibbons, Mayo’s road safety officer, said: "If it makes one person think twice about speeding, if it makes one person think twice about doing doughnuts or one person driving while using a handheld mobile phone and saves a life, then it's a good thing.

“We hope the underlying message got through to these listeners, many of whom would talk to their friends about this advert.”

Agnes Swaby, marketing manager at DoneDeal, said: “We are delighted to be able to support this important awareness campaign led by Mayo County Council. 

“By using the DoneDeal site to directly communicate to thousands of young drivers, Mayo County Council has taken a very innovative and engaging approach to driving its road safety message home.”


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I feel compelled to respond to a rather damning and fatalistic posting by Mr Francis here. The suggestion that “it will remain utterly impossible to establish whether most road safety interventions have any effect…’’ is ill considered both in sentiment and fact. No one doubts the complexities of the nature of traffic collisions, or most especially the human factors which underpin them. No one doubts that the task requires specialised skill sets, resource and commitment to achieve and few will doubt also that we have some catching up to do – on every side of the debate.

But “utterly impossible”? If it is truly the case that it will be utterly impossible to decide if road safety interventions have an effect “good or bad” then proclaiming an agenda of “fighting back with facts” seems like a rather short lived and self-defeating marketing strategy.

But perhaps what lies behind this is not just a failure to understand that what is difficult is not necessarily therefore impossible, but perhaps something more fundamental in understanding the nature of what it is that needs to be researched and evaluated.

The exception to the utterly impossible claim is apparently the measure that represents an overnight and national change. Like seat belt legislation. But was that the 10 years of failed attempts to get the legislation introduced - with each attempt alerting motorists to change on the horizon? Or the three year trail period? Or the fact that all of this was about front belts only and several years would pass before rear belts were included? Or finally – and most fundamentally of all – that in recognition of the fact that it is common in UK to introduce legislation only when the public subject to that legislation are ready to accept it, that sensitisation of the public as to merits of seat belt usage began years prior to the first attempts at introducing the legislation. That’s an overnight change 20 years in the making.

The important point here though is that all measures – including conscious decisions to maintain a status quo – demand not just full evaluation but also that we rise to the challenges inherent in that evaluation. No one said it would be easy – but that’s why some of us call it work.
Jeremy, Devon

Agree (5) | Disagree (0)

Sorry Robert, apart from the very occasional nationwide overnight change (eg the national 50mph limit and seat belt wearing) it will remain utterly impossible to establish whether most road safety interventions have any effect, good or bad.

I have driven very powerful cars and very low-powered cars. The first are much safer because they have more in reserve in terms of acceleration, braking, road holding and in many cases passive safety.
Idris Francis Fight Back With Facts Petersfield

Agree (5) | Disagree (7)

I found the comments here about the relationship between Subaru Imprezas and child road collisions confusing until I'd finished reading through a couple of other articles in the news feed today and saw that these comments formed part of a pattern of behaviour amongst several contributors across a number of feeds. This pattern has to do with focussing on the specifics to the detriment of the basic argument and I’m not sure that this sort of ‘noise’ really helps to further our understanding either of road safety issues per se, or the interventions that try to deal with them.

This isn’t about Subaru; it’s not about children and need not be considered solely about speed either. It is about driver failure; it is about the consequences of that failure and it is about the chain of decisions we all make from the moment we choose to do the journey by car to time we step out of the vehicle at the other end.

Focussing on whether or not this unfairly targets Subaru, negates the technical merits of the Impreza, or is another assault on speed or the young misses the point entirely.

All adverts try to speak to an unknown someone who will react to what they see or hear on the basis that they can empathise with the message, or identify with the messenger. This one uses some specifics in order to make a general point. It will have limited appeal and although there is something satisfyingly viral about the execution its circulation will necessarily be limited. The limitations of this approach are clear and defined by the methodology, but it will have cost peanuts to make so why worry? (Even the concept is derivative – I think it may have been tried earlier in New Zealand, though the provenance is hard to track with these things so apologies if I’ve offended whoever did think of it first).

Will this one work? I don’t know yet, but I do look forward to being told at a later date. It’s a clever idea and I like it but Rob makes a good point about testing outcomes before we spin cartwheels about new approaches, and I would encourage those who promote their newer initiatives here to commit to returning to the news feed later to talk about measured outcomes.

That way we can invest the same amount of effort into discussing and analysing why something has, or has failed to work as we do into talking about why it has offended our particular sensibilities or runs counter to our own world view. That’s how we’ll all learn and make progress.
Jeremy, Devon

Agree (10) | Disagree (0)

Is this advert true, or is it misleading? Can we see some evidence? What percentage of collisions where children were killed involved Subaru Imprezas in the last 10 years and what percentage of vehicles during that period were Subaru Imprezas?

Several of my friends had Subaru Imprezas and they reported fantastic handling and great brakes. If a child ran out, an Impreza would be better able to avoid and/or stop than almost any other car, and none of my friends killed children.

What do Subaru feel about their product being labelled as dangerous by the government? Were they consulted? Would it be legal for manufacturers to advertise their products using such a deception as used by Mayo County Council? This advert raises serious ethical issues about advertising and whether the laws and codes of conduct the authorities impose on private companies should equally apply to the authorities themselves?
Dave Finney, Slough

Agree (12) | Disagree (11)

I know several mothers who have lost their daughters after being hit by speeding motorbikes in town centres. Too often the person "accelerating out of danger" to protect themselves is becoming a far greater danger to pedestrians. Of course most motorbikes are "high performance" in terms of acceleration.
Rod King, 20's Plenty for Us

Agree (3) | Disagree (8)

Perhaps the fact that there are many tens of thousands of Nissan Micra's, but only few hundred Subaru Imprezza's on the roads is why people are fooled into thinking that the Subaru is the more deadly of the two. From a purely statistical point of view the more popular vehicle will be involved in a great many more accidents than the sports car simply because it will have a great many more interactions with other traffic. It's only when a high powered sports car is actually involved in an accident that the type becomes newsworthy and so sticks in the mind.

If one model of vehicle is ten times more popular than another then a low accident rate of 1% in the popular type can have exactly the same outcome as a high accident rate of 10% in the other type. The insurance premiums are based on the percentage rate of accidents in the entire population (of a particular model) not the absolute number of accidents suffered by that model.
Duncan MacKillop, Stratford on Avon

Agree (7) | Disagree (1)

Well deduced Duncan. That'll be why cars like Nissan Micras are so astronomically expensive to insure, compared to cars like Subaru Imprezas!
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (12) | Disagree (4)

I would suspect that more children have been killed by people driving boring cars than have been killed by people driving performance cars. If that is the case then it would have been more appropriate to do this trick with an advert for a Nissan Micra or a Suzuki Liana.
Duncan MacKillop, Stratford on Avon

Agree (7) | Disagree (16)

As with so many of the education or training interventions we read about, they are so innovative and creative that they are crying out for a sound evaluation to show whether or not they are effective. We tend to rely an awful lot on "hope" in this profession, but as we are a profession, surely we should be wanting to know, has it worked, and if so why and how?
Robert - Dorset

Agree (18) | Disagree (0)

Brilliant....hope the callers weren't too upset when put through to find it wasn't really available. Certainly memorable and innovative.
Jan James Good Egg Drivers

Agree (10) | Disagree (6)

Like it!
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (16) | Disagree (8)