Some TV adverts can become so popular that they are part of national folklore, and the UK is no different, with plenty of notable commercials seemingly coming from one source – road safety adverts.
Produced by the Department for Transport, adverts promoting road safety will no longer be seen on TV in England, after the DfT announced a decision to ‘re-prioritise’ their reduced budget. The organisation had a sizeable presence in English advertising since the 1960s, including the creation of characters such as Tufty the Squirrel, the singing hedgehogs, and ‘Green Cross Code Man’.
The move comes following a coalition decision in 2010 to reduce the DfT’s spending by £683m, uncluding a drop in ‘road safety publicity’ from £19m (2009) to £3.9m (20). The decisions have been vindicated somewhat with yearly child pedestrian deaths on roads having reduced significantly over the past two decades (from 260 in years of ‘the mid-90s’ to 60 in 2011), but fellow road safety organisations have hit out at the ‘extremely disappointing’ announcement.
DfT have claimed that the move is being made with the idea of: “Reducing the resources allocated to road safety research and marketing, distributing more of the available money instead for use in local targeted initiatives [including school visits and other 'educational initiatives'].”
However, the plans to drop all commercials have still attracted criticism, as road safety minister Stephen Hammond noted: “Road deaths are at a record low but we know that one death is one too many. We are working closely with local authorities and other partners to ensure our road safety messages are reaching children and teenagers in schools as well as providing educational resources to allow these important messages to be incorporated into the curriculum.”
DfT’s partner organisation RoSPA (Royal Society for Prevention of Accidents), added their belief that TV advert drives: “…help save lives and prevent injuries. [They manage] to create a high level of road safety awareness over a long period, and are one of the reasons why Great Britain has been able to significantly reduce the number of people being killed on our roads”.
RoSPA ‘head of road safety’ Kevin Clinton summarised: “While road safety must face its share of cuts in public spending, road accidents are an enormous financial burden that the country can ill-afford. Investing in preventing road casualties, through measures such as television campaigns, makes a significant economic contribution and helps to save lives and prevent injuries. However, that [figure of 60 deaths in 2011] was an increase from the previous year, which is very worrying, and we need to ensure it is not the start of an upward trend in child road deaths and injuries.”
While it remains to be seen whether the new non-TV direction will be one that works for the DfT’s goals, the age of the internet means that their past productions are never too far away, so doing our bit for road safety, here is a selection of England’s most memorable public service adverts in the genre: