Getting the Drink Drive Message Across

The Government's Christmas Campaign

30 November 2007

Christmas drink driving campaigns are expected to achieve three things – to make existing drink-drivers stop, to deter those most at risk of drink driving from doing so and to maintain the public attitude against drinking and driving. Realistically they have little chance of achieving the first goal – most "hard core" drink drivers are beyond being influenced by publicity and can only be tacked by enforcement – either catching them or convincing them that they are going to be caught.

Because of this Christmas campaigns also feature increased police activity on the roads. Advertising can have some effect on the hard core, if only because their wives, girlfriends or children may be influenced by the campaigns into influencing the drivers.

Christmas 2007

still image from the Department for Transport's don't drink and drive campaign This year's Christmas drink driving televison campaign is now in full swing – with the barman leaning forward and asking "Yes sir?", bursting into a catalogue of the possible consequences of drink driving, before finishing with "So, what's it going to be?"

The advertisement is unusual to say the least. Unlike many recent drink-drive advertisements it doesn't seek to shock. The style and speed of presentation makes many people feel they need to see it again.

Research Findings

The campaign is based on considerable research among the group that produces the most drink drivers – young men. One of the key findings is that young men believe that to be involved in a serious crash drivers needed to be "drunk", rather than just to have been drinking. This meant that they tended to switch off to previous advertisements which represented crashes or their aftermath.

No broadcasting restrictions

Another criticism of earlier Christmas campaigns was that they could not be screened at all times of the day because of the effect that the "violent content" could have on children. The new advertisement is not subject to any of these restrictions, and can therefore be shown at any time of day. The new advertisement can therefore be shown in advertisement breaks in programmes which attract young men – particularly sporting events – but may be at a time of day when children watch.

The "moment of doubt"

The advertisement homes in on the "moment of doubt" – the key moment when the young driver decides to have a second drink. Although any alcohol affects driving and should be avoided, the indications are that it is the decision to have a second drink that is crucial – as after that point the effect of the alcohol makes drivers less likely to refuse further drinks. The "moment of doubt" is therefore the last chance for a driver to stay legal, and to remember the consequences of a drink driving offence.

The moment of doubt can be particularly important at Christmas where many gatherings in the pub are spontaneous and unplanned.

AA view

The AA believes that the only advice on drinking and driving is "if you drink don't drive, if you drive don't drink". At the same time it accepts that the advice given in road safety campaigns has to seem realistic to those who receive it, otherwise they just discount it. The research for this campaign has clearly identified that the "moment of doubt" is a key point for young drivers.

Key to Christmas campaigns is high profile enforcement by the police. The AA hopes that this year will see a continuation in the increase of drink drive activity by the police. Every sign is that the more visible the enforcement, the more concerned drivers are at being caught, and the less drink driving that happens.


30 November 2007