Road deaths in Europe are high. John Tylee examines its road safety
Summer is coming and traffic cops all over Europe are bracing themselves
for another season of carnage on the continent’s roads.
Spaniards will treat speed limits with contempt, 97 out of every 100
Italian drivers will flaunt the country’s seatbelt laws and the French
will behave like kamikazees come August when they head for their holiday
While Britain’s blend of enforcement and road safety advertising has
made its roads among the safest in western Europe, the statistics
elsewhere are grim. In the UK, the number of road deaths per 100,000
people was 6.8 in 1993. Compare that with Italy (13), Spain (16) and
Now, with a new heart-breaking commercial from Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO
on air in Britain, there is a growing recognition in southern Europe
that this country’s hard-edged approach to road safety advertising needs
to be followed.
Reducing the annual slaughter is a gigantic problem and one which nobody
believes advertising alone can solve. Driving habits born of deeply
entrenched cultures will take years to change and traffic laws more
firmly applied. It may be a stereotype, but Latin motorists are more
prone to put their foot down and adopt a more cavalier attitude to the
law than their Anglo-Saxon counterparts.
And while Italian newspapers have reported on the AMV campaign, the
chances of anything similar running on Italian TV are almost zero,
claims Paolo Ettorre, chief executive of Saatchi and Saatchi in Rome.
‘We’re facing very high restrictions on creative freedom,’ he says.
The Italian Government spent almost pounds 3 million on road safety
advertising last year, much of it directed at young male drivers who
tank up their cars and themselves on Saturday nights. Was the
advertising any good? ‘I can’t even remember it,’ Ettorre confesses.
In Spain, between pounds 10 million and pounds 15 million supports road
safety campaigns each year, but the effect is negated by the failure to
enforce speed limits. ‘We can’t afford to be subtle any more,’ Stanley
Bendelac, chairman of Delvico Bates in Madrid, warns.
Meanwhile, France’s laissez-faire approach to creativity in TV ads has
not translated into a hard-hitting road safety campaign.
‘We’ve never dared do in France what the UK has done,’ Jacques Bille,
chairman of the European Advertising Tripartite and a former head of
France’s equivalent of the Central Office of Information, says. ‘We’ve
always tried to explain rather than frighten. But the fact is that
speeding in France is regarded as a game.’