New campaign aims to improve road safety in Czech Republic

A British advertising campaign 'Think!'

Czech drivers have a reputation of being aggressive, speeding and taking unnecessary risks. As a result, the country has one of the worst accident rates in Europe with around 1,200 people killed on the roads each year. A tough new points system intended to improve road safety introduced two years ago had only a temporary effect, and the number of fatalities soon returned to previous levels. The Transport Ministry is now trying a different tack – it wants to shock drivers into exercising greater caution, commissioning a series of TV spots with realistic images of road crashes.

Experts from the Czech Ministry of Transport have been inspired by a British advertising campaign called Think!, launched in Great Britain several years ago. They say that the only way to teach Czech drivers to respect road regulations is by shocking them. Zuzana Ambrožová works at the ministry’s department for road safety:

“This campaign should definitely be more hard-hitting than previous ones. It will focus on various target groups, chosen according to the road accident statistics. But the main group targeted will be young, inexperienced drivers, between the age of 18 and 25, who are the most vulnerable. The main topics of the campaign will definitely be drink driving, using seatbelts and baby seats.”

Zuzana Ambrožová points out that this is not the first time the ministry is using a campaign of this kind. The previous ones, however, were mainly focused on school kids. The new campaign worth 150 million crowns should target drivers, cyclists and pedestrians of all ages. It will come in the form of short television spots, posters and Internet banners. But, is there any evidence that shocking images are really effective? Zuzana Ambrožová again.

“The experience of foreign countries shows that these campaigns are more effective than campaigns based on humour. For example Australian studies show a decrease by 5 to 7 % in the number of people killed in road accidents as a result of shock-value campaigns. In English-speaking countries they have had considerable success with a campaign targeted at drink-driving among young people, which proved to be effective especially among young male drivers.”

The new campaign should appear on Czech TV screens in September or October of this year and officials are hoping to see results within a few months time.