New shock advertising campaign targets speed

Are we taking lawlessness from young drivers seriously enough?

In Northern Ireland offenders face a sterner reality of a £60 (or €90) fine and three penalty points when detected speeding. Here we have a lesser fine of €80 fine and 50 per cent fewer penalty points (two) per offence.

The most over-represented group of drivers responsible for serious speeding collisions are males in the 17 to 34 age-group. In particular 17 to 24 year old men are almost six times more likely to be responsible for fatal/serious injury collisions where excessive speed is cited as a contributory factor.

It is estimated that speed is directly killing an average of 141 people a year on this island. However, it could impact on a total of more than 500 road deaths a year, making speed the biggest contributing factor to road deaths on the island.

This was the disturbing revelation made at the launch of Mess, a new 60-seconds hard hitting anti-speeding TV advert from the Road Safety Authority, supported by Hibernian Insurance, and from the Department of the Environment, Northern Ireland, supported by Norwich Union.

It is estimated that excessive speed is a factor in almost 30 per cent of road fatalities in the Republic of Ireland and a factor in 24 per cent of road fatalities in Northern Ireland. However, evidence shows that every time human error causes a road collision it is the speed of the vehicles which determines the outcome – whether someone lives or dies, or is maimed for life.

The new advert graphically portrays how the selfish and shameful actions of a speeding driver wreck the lives of countless people in a split second. The central message being – ‘The Faster the Speed, the Bigger the Mess’. It is deemed so shocking that the broadcasting authorities have imposed a post-9pm restriction on showing the new advert and it has been rated 15/15A at the cinema.

Launching the new campaign, Minister for Transport Martin Cullen, said: “We have all seen the carnage on our roads and in particular the number of young people who die because of excessive speeding - ruining lives, devastating families and communities. It is not acceptable behaviour. What is now required is a fundamental change in driver attitudes, particularly among 17 to 35-year-olds or many of them may not have a future - they will be dead as a result of a speed related collision.”

That is true and has been for many years now - but on top of a media campaign, the resources must be provided to enforce the law, especially in the case of young male drivers.

Road Safety Authority chairman Gay Byrne said:“We have a blind spot when it comes to speeding in this country. We drive too fast. We just simply don’t get the fact that the faster you go the greater the impact. And the greater the chances of inflicting serious or fatal injury on ourselves or others. This new ad is trying to correct a national misunderstanding. Trying to deliver a strong dose of reality. It puts the laws of physics into plain English. The faster the speed the bigger the mess.”

I agree, but remember back to the months following the introduction of penalty points - there was an immediate impact on speed due to fear of being caught and a high profile Garda presence on the roads. Then along came Ireland's turn to hold the presidency of the European Community and thousands of Gardai were required for months of security duties. In that period, the roads generally returned to speedways.

All the penalty points, fines, and advertising campaigns in the world are useless, if the resources are not put into enforcement. By that I do not mean those turkey shoot/cash register speed checks on dual carriageways and motorways, but pure safety-driven speed checks that also act on bad driving.

We are told that research shows that a reduction in speed leads to a reduction in collisions - that seems logical to me. And last year, figures released by the Department of Transport indicated that 86 per cent of all roads deaths in Ireland can be attributed to driver behaviour.

I can also recall a statistic that stated, of the 309,386 drivers in Ireland who had penalty points endorsed on their driving licences up to February 2006, 228, 884 held full driving licences, 24,819 were provisional drivers, and 55,683 had no driving licence. The latter two figures are shocking.
(Publication Date: 04/05/2007)