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Do shock tactic road safety ads work?

It's been nearly 10 years since Think! launched its shocking It's 30 for a Reason road safety advert but I still remember that little girl murmuring "If you hit me at 40 miles an hour, there’s around an 80% chance I’ll die" with a shiver.

It was certainly affecting - but was it effective?

Northern Ireland's latest campaign

The Department of Road Safety (DoE) in Northern Ireland launched a new road safety campaign a couple of weeks ago that has a lot of people upset.

The DoE has a history of hard-hitting campaigns; this one has already been classed as unsuitable for pre-watershed television and pushed to 9pm onwards.

DoE road safety video

It does make for unpleasant viewing - I wanted to forget what I'd seen and I suspect a lot of people will feel the same.

Are these videos just so shocking that we subconsciously block out the message? If so, how can they teach us anything?

Real US driver confession video goes viral

Then there's this video, the confession of a young man who killed someone with his dangerous driving. It's been watched nearly 3 million times and is arguably more affecting in the long-term than the clever ad agency stuff in the DoE's new campaign - because it's real.


Sophie Morgan, road safety campaigner, changed her life forever when she crashed because she was distracted and driving too fast, even though she was sober and wearing a seatbelt. That's real too.

The real stories are devastating, so do we really need more powerful material than this to tell people that dangerous driving ruins lives?

We need to invest in driver education

These shocking videos may touch people who are already sensitive to the issue, but are easily dismissed by the people most likely to ignore the consequences of dangerous driving - potentially making this kind of campaign a waste of crucial road safety budget.

Perhaps government money would be better spent on young driver education and awareness of real life stories like Sophie Morgan's, so we can eventually raise a generation of truly safe drivers.

Richard King

By Richard King

As founder of ingenie, Richard is passionate about helping young drivers get on the road safely and affordably. He appears on TV campaigning to improve young driver safety.