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Advertising safely in Stockport
This page describes a little road safety scandal in Stockport. A downright dangerous road safety advertisement was allowed to air on Imagine FM.

Read the story, see the emails, hear the advertisement, all right here on Safe Speed.


 
Introduction

In early November 2002 the "Stockport Road Safety Team" commissioned a radio advertisement (sometimes known as an "infomercial") about the dangers of speed on city streets. Unfortunately they created a very dangerous advert and allowed it to air. Click here to see their home page.

Hear it for yourself
 
First version: (aired until 9:15am 6th November 2002)

"...If you think you're a skilled driver, then try keeping the needle of your speedometer on 30 miles per hour. It's a precise balancing act that requires practice, but please stick at it, it's the true test of a good driver..."
 
download (119KB)

Second Version: (aired from 8th November 2002)

"...If you think you're a skilful and safe driver then please drive at the appropriate speed that the speed limit and road conditions dictate. It's a precise balancing act that requires practice, but please, stick at it - it's the true test of a good driver..."

download (158KB)

Clicking on the download will load and play the recording of the advertisement on suitably configured computers. To save the advertisements to your own hard disc, right click and choose "save" from the menu. The downloads are in MP3 format and require an MP3 Player. Visit Winamp if you don't have one.

Here are a few emails that the first version caused:
 
Subject: Radio infomercial
Date: Wed, 06 Nov 2002 01:22:59
From: Paul Smith
Organization: Safe Speed
To: brian.wilkinson@stockport.gov.uk

Dear Brian

With regard to the following infomercial currently playing on Imagine FM:

"...If you think you're a skilled driver, then try keeping the needle of your speedometer on 30 miles per hour. It's a precise balancing act that requires practice, but please stick at it, it's the true test of a good driver..."

The patronizing, factually incorrect, and downright dangerous content of your current radio advert marks you out as a gross incompetent.

Please reconsider and withdraw this advert immediately. I shall otherwise complain to as many authorities as I can think of. I'll give you 24 hours.

Best Regards,
Paul Smith
Safe Speed

No reply was received.

Subject: Planet Earth
Date: Wed, 6 Nov 2002 07:47:55
From: Russell Eden
To: brian.wilkinson@stockport.gov.uk
CC: <mary.lawson@stockport.gov.uk>,
<paul.leatherbarrow@stockport.gov.uk>, <sue.glithero@stockport.gov.uk>,
<melanie.roebuck@stockport.gov.uk>,
<emma.fleet@stockport.gov.uk>,
<cllr.david.brailsford@stockport.gov.uk>,
<cllr.kevin.hogg@stockport.gov.uk>

Dear Sir

Have you, or anyone in your department, ever been to the planet earth before?

As a road safety campaigner and member of the Institute of Advanced Motorists I can only say that I am appalled by the lack of wisdom shown by your department in the creation of the radio add calling upon drivers to stick rigidly to 30 mph.

There is not a single advanced driving theory that is based on rigidly sticking to speed limits. Good drivers vary their speed to the conditions prevalent at the time, and you will not turn the bad drivers into good drivers with this drivell.

I would hope that anyone with a brain will completely ignore this junk. I will be complaining to the Advertising Standards Commission forthwith with the hope that it gets pulled before people die. Idiots!

Yours faithfully
Russell Eden

From: Keith Jones

I tried driving as you suggested on my way to work this morning.  It is indeed a tightrope balancing act and does take great skill.  Though I must say that I really did find 30 mph a little too fast in some circumstances.

Some roundabouts in particular are something of a challenge at this speed, especially in the wet.  Also I think that some parents may complain about the way in which  I now race past the local school. Still as long as I'm doing the right thing and sticking to your speed target I feel I have the moral high ground.

I expect the improvements in road safety comes from the fact that it is now almost impossible for me to read the post on the way to work.

Keith

And a press report in the Stockport Express (13/11/02):
 

Safespeed Comments

Once this came to light the first advertisement was taken off the air quite quickly. We first heard of it soon after midnight on the morning of the 6th November, and Imagine FM confirmed to us that it had been removed from air soon after 9am on the same day.

In some ways it is amusing that such an advertisement as the first version should be allowed onto the air for the general public to hear. It is after all so ridiculous as to be laughable. However, the serious aspects of the affair are these points:

  • How could Stockport Council road safety professionals have such poor understanding that the advert was allowed onto the air in the first place?
  • If road safety professionals accepted the advertisement sufficiently to allow it to air, then how many members of the public are already driving to the speedometer in the daft recommended fashion?
  • If we allow the present over-emphasis on speed limits to continue, then how many more members of the public will become dependent on their speedometers as primary arbiters of safety?
  • And how much more dangerous will that make our roads?
In many ways we have become speed crazy. This bananas advertisement is an example of the wrong thinking that is now so commonplace. If we want to improve road safety, we must get back on track.

I am writing to Stockport Council, and their road safety team, drawing their attention to this page, and inviting their comments. I'll publish any reply right here for all to see.

Comments

Comments on the above are welcome. If there is a demand we will create a comments page. We will be delighted to publish all suitable emails including those whose content we disagree with. Email comment.

Safe Speed: Promoting intelligent road safety

We have a strict editorial policy regarding factual content. If any fact anywhere on this web site can be shown to be incorrect we promise to remove it or correct it as soon as possible.
SafeSpeed
You can't measure safe driving in miles per hour.

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