Be Bright, Be Seen video game controversy - the minister responds

"Rubbish" is ministerial response to claims video game puts blame on victims

by Mark Appleton   November 14, 2010  

Be Bright Be Seen

A couple of weeks back we ran a story about a Department of Transport funded campaign aimed at children which, we think, reinforces the notion that failure to wear high visibility clothing at night is, effectively, an invitation to get run over, even if you are following all the rules.

In some ways this is a tricky story to categorise because it is part news part editorial comment but It’s a subject we are unapologetically going to return to in future, given that there seems to be insufficient emphasis being placed on motorists to remember the duty of care that they owe other road users, particularly vulnerable road users..

We asked for a response to the article from the Department for Transport. Road Safety Minister Mike Penning, it took over a week but this is what he had to say to us:

“This game is part of a range of educational materials designed to give children the skills they need to stay safe on the roads as they become more independent.

“It is nonsense to suggest that, simply by explaining the consequences of different behaviour, we are attributing the blame for accidents to anyone. I am clear that everyone on the road has a role to play in creating a safe environment whether they are driving, riding, cycling or walking.”

So there you have it. Our assertion that the game reinforces the notion that insufficiently hi-viz kids can expect to get clobbered by a car even if they are doing everything right when it comes to crossing the road is “nonsense.” More cynical minds than ours might wonder whether Mr Penning had actually seen the video in question before responding.

Naturally enough we stand by our opinion that the balance of responsibility in ensuring vulnerable road users are sufficiently protected on British roads is not reflected in tax-payer funded public awareness campaigns. It's certainly a far cry from the days of Tufty or the Green Cross Man, when it was simply a case of "look left, look right, and look left again, and if it's safe to do so cross the road" the new message would seem to be "look left, look right, and look left again, and if it's safe to do so cross the road, and if you do get run over by a speeding motorist in the dark and you're not wearing some high viz clothing it's your fault kid." Maybe this is in tune with the new government's tough messages for tough times ethos, but it doesn't seem very fair.

Of course, there is a place for reminding cyclists and pedestrians that it is in their own self-interest to be visible but not when such messages by inference reinforce the notion that the car is king - in our view the people driving those cars bear a much greater responsibility simply because they are in the position to do a much greater amount of harm.

A spokesman for the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents told road.cc:

“Road safety is everybody’s responsibility, which is why RoSPA focuses on the part all road users can play in preventing accidents. For example, ahead of the clocks changing, RoSPA reminded pedestrians and cyclists to make themselves easily seen and, most importantly of all, urged drivers and motorcyclists to watch their speed and keep a proper look-out for vulnerable road users.

“It must be remembered that the DfT’s Think! campaign produces a wide variety of materials for different groups of road users. The Be Safe, Be Seen game, along with others in the Tales of the Road series, are designed to share simple messages that young children can take on board and put into practice.

"These messages are designed to be built on, with further advice shared, as children get older and start using the road in different ways, for example by becoming cyclists and, one day, drivers or motorcyclists.”

Here at road.cc we believe that the emphasis on reducing the harm that occurs on Britain's roads should not be placed on the victims of that harm but on those that cause. Death and injury on the road is not the result of some natural force like storm, wind, or tide but of individual human beings being careless, reckless, sometimes just plain stupid, and sometimes just unlucky.

The vast  majority of accidents in which someone is killed or injured are the result of someone else, behind the wheel of a motorised vehicle, making the wrong choice whether it was to drive too fast for the conditions, to use their mobile phone, or to drive a car or lorry they knew was in some way defective if we want to reduce death and destruction on Britain's roads more public money should be spent reminding these people of their responsibilities to the rest of us when they get behind the wheel.
 

27 user comments

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This one will run and run and run and run and run and run....

I see nothing negative about this. What's wrong with pointing out that wearing hi-viz might save your skin? I wish some cyclist would take heed - I wish some would even use lights!

Taking things to the extreme appears to be the only way to get things to stick in peoples minds:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j-mdoambAQQ
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WxOEHMWCg-M
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VIA1HUkN4Z4

You've mentioned the old Tuffty and Green X code man campaigns but what about the old one about carrying/wearing something light coloured as the nights draw in? This is nothing new.

Take a chill-pill and accept that road safety campaigns need to target information at ALL road users not just your perceived 'bad-guys'..

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posted by DaveP [467 posts]
14th November 2010 - 18:54

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If you run the 'game' Dave you will get to point when no matter how careful you are and no matter how much Hi-Viz you wear you will get run down by a speeding motorist, which defeats the object of the 'game' in the first place.

The implication is therefore that cars have absolute right of way and only pedestrians and cyclists have to obey the Highway Code.

Speeding in built up areas is illegal. The wearing of Hi-Viz clothing is a recommendation not a legal requirement and based on this 'game' there is no incentive for walking or riding round like a christmas tree if it is going to have no effect.

Did Nightrider 2013 for Parkinson's UK, doing it again this year just for the fun of it.

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posted by jova54 [479 posts]
15th November 2010 - 8:38

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davep: the point here is not whether wearing visible clothing at night is a good idea or not: it is. the point is that when a car hits a child obeying the green cross code, the responsibility for the accident lies with the driver, and the game is attempting to shift the blame to the child. that's not acceptable.

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posted by Dave Atkinson [6877 posts]
15th November 2010 - 8:53

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Personally I am looking forward to the government using the same approach to dealing with other crimes. I can imagine the "Don't get raped" campaign going down well.

posted by mr_colostomy [29 posts]
15th November 2010 - 11:50

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Indeed mr_colostomy. I can imagine it now
'Oh Dear! Didn't scream loudly enough as you were attacked from behind and dragged into the bushes? You probably shouldn't have been wearing a miniskirt anyway.'

As for the game; it makes me feel sick. It's an extention of the motor vehicle based view the majority of government and the law has about our roads. Take the talk of cyclists having to shoulder responsibility for harm if they are hit by a car while not wearing a helmet. It's bow-locks. Road users, both powered and unpowered, need to be made responsible for their own actions. Too many drivers have no idea what their obligations are on the road. Too many cyclists know their obligations but choose to ignore them. And everyone needs reminding that the rules in the Highway Code do not give you the right of way in any circumstance, but they advise you when you should give way to others. Always give way if it can help to avoid an incident.

posted by adscrim [101 posts]
15th November 2010 - 13:41

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At least you got a reply!

What about the imagery within the campaign - it's horrendous that they want to put those pictures in kids minds. As 'Games' go, this one should at least come with a PG sticker.

posted by ian... [1 posts]
15th November 2010 - 14:59

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It's just ADVERTISING!! Do you really believe that wearing Lynx turns you into a babe magnet, or that it just stops you smelling like a midden? Things taken to extremes are memorable.

As a driver/cyclist/horse rider/pedestrian/dog walker I do try to be as safe as I can but there's no guaranteeing what the idiots out there will do. As a driver I've been hit by bikes, as a cyclist I've been hit by cars, as a horse rider I've nearly been hit by both. So far ( touch wood ) as a pedestrian I'm doing ok..

There will alway be idiots out there going too fast, drunk, drugged, asleep, over confident or just not looking. Both Children and idiots need educating about taking responsibility for their actions, and how to mitigate the actions of others. If that takes shock tactics, so be it.

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posted by DaveP [467 posts]
15th November 2010 - 15:39

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It isn't the same as a commercial advertisement. Lynx just want to sell as much deodorant as possible, they are a commercial operation and this is what is expected of them.

A government "advertisement" should be in the public benefit and doesn't need to employ the same methods to gain attention as a commercial ad. This is probably why there are so few women in bikinis in the Self-Assessment Tax Return adverts.

A parent who is relatively powerless to change the state of the town in which their children live may decide that encouraging their child to wear high vis at night is a good idea. They shouldn't even think it necessary in an ideal world, but as things are they may feel it is a good idea. They are merely behaving in a pragmatic manner. A government is different, it has the power and duty to change the root cause of the problem rather than merely telling people (in this case young children) to be aware of it. In Manchester for example there are certain areas where knife and gun crime are more common than others. Thankfully the local police don't run a campaign suggesting that people might want to avoid those places (and it is their own fault if they do not do, and get shot), they actually attempt (with varied results) to tackle the actual problem. This is what a government should do.

posted by mr_colostomy [29 posts]
15th November 2010 - 16:10

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DaveP, I think you have missed the point. The 'game', if you can call it that, appears simply to reinforce the car-centric view that the roads are for cars, and if you get in their way then the consequences are yours alone.

This seems to be a particularly insidious way of selling road-safety to children, who are unlikely to be able to recognise the subtle (if unintended) 'anti-pedestrian' message.

No-one is arguing that hi-viz is a bad thing, just the way it has been presented here. It wouldn't be so bad if the message was balanced by a similar campaign aimed at car drivers, but where can one find anything like that in the media??

posted by don_don [146 posts]
15th November 2010 - 16:21

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DaveP wrote:
It's just ADVERTISING!!

can't agree, davep. it's the thin end of the wedge, that ends up with the drivers of black sports cars pursuing contributory negligence claims against children who they deem 'not bright enough'. mr colostomy is right, the government needs to tackle the cause of the issues.

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posted by purplecup [229 posts]
15th November 2010 - 16:22

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don_don says;

"No-one is arguing that hi-viz is a bad thing, just the way it has been presented here."

Maybe they weren't but I am - at least to say that it should never be necessary.

Yes a pretty unusual stance but I am fed up of the number of times people just don't look properly. If there is something (or somebody) on the road the road user (of any kind) is responsible for seeing it - regardless of visibility, light, fog etc. If the road user can't see then they shouldn't proceed, and when they do proceed their speed should be dependent on how well and far they can see.

If I can't see a black cow, brown labrador or unlit skip and I hit it then it is my fault. Same applies if I hit a cyclist, pedestrian or anything else - lit or not, hi-viz or not.

Somehow we need to remind road users of the need to look properly and drive in accordance with what they can or can't see.

Shay

posted by shay cycles [140 posts]
15th November 2010 - 20:40

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don_don wrote:
DaveP, I think you have missed the point. The 'game', if you can call it that, appears simply to reinforce the car-centric view that the roads are for cars, and if you get in their way then the consequences are yours alone.

It's a game.. Shouldn't we just ask the writers to add a bus, couple of bikes and the odd motability scooter? Would that even the score and be PC enough?

don_don wrote:
No-one is arguing that hi-viz is a bad thing, just the way it has been presented here.

Agreed, and if 'they' did nothing...?

don_don wrote:
It wouldn't be so bad if the message was balanced by a similar campaign aimed at car drivers, but where can one find anything like that in the media??

Enter the words Road Safety in to youtube.....

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posted by DaveP [467 posts]
15th November 2010 - 21:29

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purplecup wrote:
can't agree, davep. it's the thin end of the wedge,

Sounds like the opening line in a letter to the Editor of the Daily Wail...

purplecup wrote:
that ends up with the drivers of black sports cars pursuing contributory negligence claims against children who they deem 'not bright enough'.

Dumb arsed, ambulance chasing, litigation madness! Some people are just STUPID and grasping.

purplecup wrote:
mr colostomy is right, the government needs to tackle the cause of the issues.

Come the (cycling) revolution you can put all car drivers against a wall and stone them, the good ones with the bad. In the mean time I'll go with my "Glass Half Full" view and thank 'them' for at least trying to educate our kids that there are some very stupid people out there, but ask that they put a little more thought into their next attempt.

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posted by DaveP [467 posts]
15th November 2010 - 21:42

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mr_colostomy wrote:
It isn't the same as a commercial advertisement. Lynx just want to sell as much deodorant as possible, they are a commercial operation and this is what is expected of them.
A government "advertisement" should be in the public benefit and doesn't need to employ the same methods to gain attention as a commercial ad. /snip/ ... This is probably why there are so few women in bikinis in the Self-Assessment Tax Return adverts.

I'll reiterate my point : Extreme things stick in the memory.. It's a basic human premise.

Agreed sex does not 'sell' Tax, nor road safety.

mr_colostomy wrote:
A government is different, it has the power and duty to change the root cause of the problem rather than merely telling people (in this case young children) to be aware of it.

Until they have completed your change, I'd like them to keep reminding kids there's blood thirsty, short sighted, idiots out there in control of lethal weapons who need all the help they can get to stop them from killing every child in sight.... or is that taking things too far?

mr_colostomy wrote:
This is what a government should do.

Let's face it our Government can't fight an illegal war properly, what chance do you give them on road safety?

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posted by DaveP [467 posts]
15th November 2010 - 21:59

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Dave, Has anyone asked a child what they think of the 'game'? I fear we are coming at this from the view point of adult cyclist who live with the very real fear of being maimed or killed on a daily basis by idiot road users.. Did I say my last brush with death was from a fellow cyclist?

Until the point where we/they make speeding as socially negative as we've made drink driving, we still need to warn of the dangers.

OK, why not challenge the your readers to come up with a new road safety campaign? One that works 100%...

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posted by DaveP [467 posts]
15th November 2010 - 22:10

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jova54 wrote:
If you run the 'game' Dave you will get to point when no matter how careful you are and no matter how much Hi-Viz you wear you will get run down by a speeding motorist, which defeats the object of the 'game' in the first place.

On my commute I wear hi-viz, keep my lights on and still get car drivers pulling out, buses pulling in an kids stepping off the curb.. It's not magic but it 'might' lengthen the odds on my living a bit longer.

jova54 wrote:
The implication is therefore that cars have absolute right of way and only pedestrians and cyclists have to obey the Highway Code.

Have you asked a child? or are you making a value judgement?

jova54 wrote:
Speeding in built up areas is illegal

Agreed... the TV adverts back that up. Riding through red lights is also illegal and equally as stupid.. not seen a tv advert for that. Sad

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posted by DaveP [467 posts]
15th November 2010 - 22:23

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Is anyone suggesting all car drivers be be put up against a wall and stoned? I don't think so… it would present something of a problem come for the cycling revolution though because as a group cyclists own more cars than the national average.

I'm with shay cycles on this one, it's up to the road user, to take responsibility and look out for other road users and drive or ride with the care necessary for the conditions - it shouldn't be up to vulnerable road users to make up for the defective driving of motorists - they should bloody well look where they are going.

Oh, and typing road safety in to Youtube does bring up a lot of vids. Old vids, mostly about wearing your seatbelt and drink driving, apart from one seat belt ad they don't look to have had that many views - lmore people would seem to be interested in our Shimano Di2 video. Anyway, Youtube is a pretty cheap and ineffective way of reaching the target audience of motorists that these sorts of message need to reach that would take spending some serious money on tv and newspaper ads.

Likewise that video game isn't a good start at educating our kids it's just lazy propaganda selling the message that roads belong to motorists and no-one else.
The last government liked to trumpet the fact that they had cut the numbers of children killed on Britain's roads by more than 50 per cent, but as the National Audit Office pointed out the main reason for this was because fewer and fewer children felt safe enough to use the roads, except as the passenger in a car, due to the relentlessly car-centric focus of transport policy. The government had met its target by scaring them all away. Seems like the new lot will be carrying on that policy.

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posted by Tony Farrelly [4096 posts]
15th November 2010 - 22:32

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Tony
Alas, the Government might have changed, but the Civil Servants doing the work didn't... Crying

I used the youtube bit as an example of where to find examples of Govt money being spent on campaigns aimed at getting drivers to slow down and pay attention - as one reader couldn't remember seeing any:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HeUX6LABCEA (bit of classic shock tactics, sticks in my mind)

It's your adult/biased opinion that the 'game' just shows all drivers to be mindless killing machines who don't want anyone out on the roads but themselves.. To me it looks to be aimed at under 10s, an age group who are famous for thinking Tom and Jerry are behaving normally for a cat and a mouse?

This is a pitchfork waiving, knee-jerk reaction. Don't get so over blown about it, instead do something constructive and organise suggestions for the next edition of the game?

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posted by DaveP [467 posts]
15th November 2010 - 23:30

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Ah that's not quite my point, I'm not saying anything about mindless drivers because there aren't any drivers in this game - just cars. That's my point you could just as well call the road in the game 'The River of Steel… And hey kid you've got to cross it! You could trying using the Green X Code… Duh! This is a river of steel we're talking about, it'll run you down anyway.'

We should be teaching kids how to cross the roads properly and that if they stop, look, look again, and only cross when they think it is safe to do so that they should expect to get to the other side in one piece, and we should be ramming home to everyone else their responsibility to look out for kids crossing the roads.

That's a good video, but it's also an old video - why aren't the DfT putting their energies into making similar films these days?

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posted by Tony Farrelly [4096 posts]
16th November 2010 - 0:06

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"Rivers of Steel.... It'll run you down!"
Good title, Frogger was its name when I was younger. Don't think it mentally scared me any more than Space Invaders or Centipede.

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posted by DaveP [467 posts]
16th November 2010 - 7:37

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Heh! But your missing the point again DaveP - not saying it's going to scar anyone, I am saying that it is pushing the message that the only things that belong on the roads are cars.

I know it would be boring for the creatives employed by the DfT but why not simply show kids how to cross the road.

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posted by Tony Farrelly [4096 posts]
16th November 2010 - 8:01

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Nope I'm not missing the point, I'm just not taking the view of one poorly thought out item and vilifying it as the only thing 'they' are doing in child road-safety...

You want 'them' to teach kids to cross the road, to teach kids to "look both ways" and find a "safe place"?? Don't the other games on the site do that?

As a test of your assertions, I'll ask my 9yo to play ALL the games on the site. I'll then - without prompting her - ask for her opinion. Unfortunately Meg already has her own Hi-Viz vest, so her thoughts on that game may be a little skewed.

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posted by DaveP [467 posts]
16th November 2010 - 9:23

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This is not the first time these people at directgov have been playing silly games. Does anyone else remember knockin noggins, which advocated violence against cyclist who do not wear helmets?

http://www.theyworkforyou.com/wrans/?id=2009-06-04a.103.6&s=talesofthero...
The DFT removed that one after complaints from MPs, the CTC, and the NSPCC.

posted by Monstermunch [7 posts]
16th November 2010 - 20:37

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I feel that in many ways that this game will not serve to encourage youngsters to wear HiViz gear on the streets in the dark! As with any video game those playing it will only try and gain a high score/stars!! They will not necessarily start to wear the 'required' clothing as it has no street cred.

There is no proof to the best of my knowledge that the wearing of HiViz/reflective gear does not reduce accidents and the only reason that less children are being injured is due to the fact that they are being transported by their parents in cars.

As cyclists we are very much aware of our vunerability and that of others due to our not being surrounded by several tons of steel and we make the necessary risk assesment and take action ie: lights, clothing etc. I have no issue with the wearing of visible clothing, I do though, have great problems that prospective drivers are not taught road awarenesss in regards to vunerable road users. Does anyone out there seriously believe that a motorist is going to google 'road safety'??? Sadly the motorist is convinced that their ABS, traction control etc., is going to stop them hitting a vunerable road user. How many of us have seen and experienced this late braking at junctions forcing us into the path of another vehicle?

The DfT would be better in looking at ways in which to change the behaviour of the motorist and make our roads much safer!

Oh yes, does anyone out there know if our Northern European neighbours encourage the same wearing of HiViz clothing as actively as the DfT??

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posted by giff77 [879 posts]
16th November 2010 - 21:29

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DaveP, did we say that it's the only thing 'they' are doing? The minister points out in his response that the DfT produce a whole range of materials etc etc. Think we just said that with this particular game 'they' had produced something rather dumb.

I'm not going to get too worked up about it though because if my three kids are anything to go by it is unlikely to be seen by many children either way- none of them, have ever heard of or seen any road safety games or video put out by the DfT they got all their road safety training on the job as it were, walking to school every day. None of them, or any of their friends wear any high viz gear to do so.

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posted by Tony Farrelly [4096 posts]
16th November 2010 - 22:23

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Cyclists need to be aware of this:
http://croydoncyclist.wordpress.com/2010/11/23/hi-viz-the-new-helmet-deb...

And the shocking research it's based upon (please read the whole article it's at the end of the PDF):
Cyclist visibility at night: Perceptions of visibility do not necessarily match reality
by JM Wood*, RA Tyrrell**, R Marszalek*, P Lacherez*, T Carberry*, BS Chu*, and MJ King***
Australia Journal of the Australasian College of Road Safety, 21(3). pp. 56‐60.
http://eprints.qut.edu.au/38338/1/c38338.pdf

posted by Recumbenteer [135 posts]
30th December 2010 - 10:33

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Back to road safety campaigns, this is one of the most effective I've seen. It's a compilation of what looks appears to be actual video with fictional footage but it makes one think [warning: graphic content]

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eC2SBX2nnUw

posted by Recumbenteer [135 posts]
30th December 2010 - 11:13

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