Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Forget Tufty - It's Cool to Take Care; Horn Blower

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Forget Tufty - It's Cool to Take Care; Horn Blower

Article excerpt


ROAD safety has a big image problem. It's simply not sexy.

Probably, for the average adult, it conjures up images of men in polo-neck jumpers presenting public information films about the importance of keeping your distance from other vehicles on motorways. Or Tufty the squirrel offering sensible road safety advice, or using the Green Cross Code. Doesn't that take you back?

So this is the challenge. We have to persuade young drivers that taking care behind the wheel is the cool thing to do. These drivers are the prime target for road safety campaigns because they are more likely to take risks than any other drivers, due to a mixture of inexperience and feelings of invincibility. They will also be on our roads for the next half-century. One in 10 drivers is under 25 but one in four drivers who die is under 25.

Yet road safety has to compete with car adverts promoting top speeds, the big sardonic gob of speed guru Jeremy Clarkson, and a general lack of interest among news editors in covering road safety issues or even reporting on the 10 deaths and 100 serious injuries that happen on our roads every day.

In my dream world, Anne Robinson would tell Clarkson that he is the weakest link, and all boy (and girl) racers would religiously go below speed limits, particularly in towns and on bendy rural roads (while being given free tickets to test their reactions and adrenal glands somewhere else - on race tracks, dry ski slopes, or paint-balling. I don't really care as long as it's not the South Circular).

So when it came to launching the campaign Pledge to Drive Safely last month, Brake, the road safety organisation of which I am chief executive, was on the hunt for good-looking, popular celebrities who could help improve road safety's image. The Pledge asks drivers to promise to stay below speed limits, never drink or take drugs and drive, stay calm behind the wheel, take breaks on long journeys, never use a mobile phone when driving and maintain your vehicle.

The tragic thing is that many celebs are traffic offenders - from footballers to popster Geri Halliwell. …

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