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No drink-driving TV ads this Christmas after campaign budget slashed by four-fifths

Decision to axe seasonal reminder greeted with dismay by road safety campaigners

It’s become as much a part of the Festive Season as presents stacked under the tree or the Queen’s Christmas Day broadcast. But this year, the annual campaign against drink-driving, which over the year has resulted in some memorable and hard-hitting TV adverts, will be staying off our screens, a victim of government budget cuts.

The Department for Transport (DfT), which last year allocated £3.4 million to the campaign, has given it less than a fifth of that this year, £550,000, meaning that there is no money available to buy TV airtime to reinforce the annual message.

A spokesman for the Welsh Assembly Government, which co-ordinates the campaign in Wales with the principality’s police forces, told the website Wales Online: “Although this year’s drink-drive campaign will not contain advertising for television or cinema as in previous years, we are confident that our message will reach and resonate with all parts of society. The message is clear; those who choose to ignore the law risk not only their own lives but the lives of others.”

However, the website said that the news had been greeted with dismay buy road safety campaigners, who believed that the absence of TV advertising meant that the message of not drinking and driving would reach a smaller audience.

Julie Townsend, campaigns director for Brake, told the website: “Drink driving remains one of the biggest killers on our roads, causing seven deaths every week and many more serious injuries – so it’s crucial that we continue to get the message across that driving after even small amounts of alcohol can have horrific consequences.

“While it’s extremely important that drink-drive advertising is carefully targeted, we are concerned that scaling back this campaign will mean far fewer people hear these potentially life-saving messages.

“We have made a great deal of progress in reducing drink-drive casualties in the past decade, but too many families still suffer as a result of this deadly crime. We must continue investing in drink-drive campaigns, alongside stepping up enforcement, to eliminate this menace from our roads.”

Andrew Howard, who is head of Road Safety at the AA, also warned that the absence of a TV element to the campaign would mean that it would not reach as many people as it should.

“I think one half of the argument is that the hard-hitting style of the campaign is often shown after the watershed, when everyone is at the pub, but realistically it is about money,” he explained.

“The anti drink-driving campaign is our annual booster inoculation against drink-driving. Taking away this sort of television advert is not a good thing. It’s part of the education process for children who will put an assault of their parents about the issue and young people who have just got their driving licence and it becomes ingrained into them.”

Meanwhile, police forces in Wales got their Play It Safe Not Sorry Christmas campaign under way yesterday, the central message of which is that one drink is one too many for someone intending to drive.

Chief Inspector Dave Roome of North Wales Police’s Operational Services Division said that the force would adopt a zero-tolerance stance to anyone caught driving while over the limit.

“There will be a robust approach, both before and after Christmas, and if you break the law and drive over the limit you not only run the risk of disqualification and a criminal prosecution, you also risk your own life, as well as the lives of others,” he insisted.

“Officers throughout Wales are committed to making our roads safer and will be conducting targeted patrols in a bid to reduce the number of motorists who decide to drink or take drugs and then get behind the wheel,” Inspector Roome continued.
 

Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.

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