THINK! launches 50th anniversary drink drive campaign

12.00 | 7 November 2014 | | 7 comments

New research from THINK!, commissioned on the 50th anniversary of the first drink drive advertising campaign, shows how much attitudes towards drink driving have changed in the last half century.

In a survey of 2,000 people, 91% of respondents agreed drink driving is unacceptable and 92% said they would feel ashamed if they were caught drinking and driving.

By comparison, back in 1979 more than half of male drivers and nearly two thirds of young male drivers admitted drink driving on a weekly basis.

The shift in attitudes is a stark contrast to the first drink drive public information film in 1964, which was set in an office Christmas party. The advert politely reminded people that “four single whiskeys and the risk of accident can be twice as great… If he’s been drinking, don’t let him drive.” 

THINK! says a combination of road safety campaigning and better enforcement has led to road deaths falling from 1,640 in 1967 to 230 in 2012.

To mark the 50th anniversary, THINK! has produced a new advert to recognise the progress that’s been made, while reminding people that the dangers of drink driving are still as real as they have always been.

The new ad juxtaposes Kool and the Gang’s cheery ‘Celebration’ song with a dramatic crash scene and the sequence of events that follow, reminding people that there are still too many people being killed on our roads by drink drivers.

Patrick McLoughlin, transport secretary, said: "The change in attitudes to drink driving over the last 50 years is a huge success story. It is hard to imagine now how shocking and ground-breaking the first drink drive campaigns were when they launched. Clearly THINK! has had a significant impact.

"Most of us understand drink driving wrecks lives but there is further to go. In 2012, 230 people were killed in drink driving accidents. This makes the THINK! campaign as relevant as ever."

In the recent THINK! survey, 88% of respondents said that they would think badly of someone who drinks and drives and almost half (45%) said they would prefer to tell their partner they watch pornography than confess to being caught drink driving.

Shaun Helman, head of transport psychology at the Transport Research Laboratory, said: “Compared with 50 years ago, drink-driving is now very much minority behaviour. This change has been achieved through firm laws, highly visible enforcement, and a sea-change in public attitudes; drink driving is now frowned upon by the vast majority of people.

“No one working in road safety is complacent though; through a commitment to catching drink-drivers, and through harnessing peer pressure, we will continue to reinforce the message that drink driving is completely unacceptable.”


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    Surveys, do you really get the truth or just the answer you choose by carefully worded questions?

    It states that “45% said they would prefer to tell their partner they watch pornography than confess to being a drink driver”. Well that would not happen in all the places I have worked! Sorry not from a ‘right-on’ academic background, more factory fodder based. How on earth do these ‘experts’ arrive at such ‘statistics’, is it just to give people a number which they can repeat like some religious mantra?

    Judge people not by their words, but by their actions, if you want the real truth. There may have been some culture change, but that just reflects society itself. If ‘experts’ think that there has been a wholesale shift, then why not relax some of the punishment? Like much in life, it is FEAR of the retribution that stops people doing something, not a change in attitudes.

    Terry Hudson, Kent
    Agree (1) | Disagree (0)

    I’ll be there!

    Duncan MacKillop, Stratford on Avon
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    Hi Duncan, Rhodes, thanks for your comments.

    Our current drink drive strategy has 3 main objectives:
    1. Increase the salience of the personal consequences of a drink drive conviction at key moments of decision (eg the barman ad you mention)
    2. Maintain the social unacceptability of drink driving (increased social unacceptability has been a big driver of the reduction in drink driving)
    3. Offer in pub solutions to help drivers avoid alcohol (eg our partnership with Coke which offers designated drivers buy-one-get-one-free)

    This particular ad isn’t designed to ‘scare’ people into thinking they could be the victim if they drink drive, but to reinforce the social stigma of drink driving by showing the impact it has on others. The key message is that we’ve made progress but that its unacceptable that there are still any deaths due to drink driving at all. Our younger drivers are less likely to have been exposed to this type of message before and the 50th anniversary and the PR coverage surrounding it presented a good opportunity to reinforce this message. The ad won’t be on TV, but online only.

    Duncan are you at the motorcycle safety seminar tomorrow? If so I look forward to meeting you.

    Tim, Campaigns Team, DfT

    Tim Lennon, Department for Transport
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    I suppose after the most excellent ‘barman’ advert the only way is down. Whoever created the barman advert really knew what they were doing. They knew that accidents only happen to other people so if you show someone an accident all they do is feel sorry for the victims not think that they could actually be the victim. They knew that making the advert from the point of view of the first person addressed people as individuals leaving them no room to think it was being addressed to the other guy. They also knew that putting the person at the beginning of a process where they would actually be doing the drinking was a stroke of genius. Don’t waste any expensive TV time with this advert, run the barman one instead.

    Duncan MacKillop, Stratford on Avon
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    I am a little disappointed with this advert. I would have thought that by now the Think! team would have listened to researchers, not just from this country but from around the world, and gone with a more positive approach to get the road safety messages across.

    The old fashioned way of trying to get a message across by thinking you can scare someone into doing something using the outdated ‘cutting out thing’ and lots of uniforms has been proven not to have the desired effect, even at the claimed target audience of this advert. The only good part of this advert is the positive narrative strap line at the end which should have featured more prominently in the ad.

    Rhodes, West Midlands
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    In the past I have criticised Think! for missing the point on quite a few campaigns. As for the new Drink Drive advert, absolutely Bang On! Well done for this one. The irony of the song relating to the devastation of life is spot on. The timing of the crash team doctor shouting “c’mon” as life ebbs away is perfect as I know that happens after many a long fought resuscitation attempts. I am not disregarding life just because it fits in with an advert but getting people to re-think their attitude from a commercial about any driving subject is no easy task. Again well done Think!

    Stuart Rochdale
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    The most recent Department for Transport statistics show the amount of casualties from drink drive collisions (not including people killed) have actually risen since 2010 from 9,450 to 9,710. That’s the equivalent of one person every hour in the UK alone.

    Furthermore the latest Department for Transport statistics show the number of people killed and injured in drink driving collisions in Wales has risen for the first time in three years too.

    So although 91% of people think drink driving is unacceptable, a lot of people are obviously still doing it.

    Mike, Don’t Be That Someone, London
    Agree (1) | Disagree (0)

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