Northern Ireland Safe Driving PSA Stirs Controversy

By Erik Oster 

A safe-driving PSA for Northern Ireland’s Department of the Environment by Belfast agency LyleBailie International has created an international stir with its disturbing imagery. The 60-second PSA, which only airs after 9 P.M., has been criticized for going too far to make its point, “and some news outlets have posted ‘trigger warnings’ about the strong content,” Adweek reports.

The PSA, entitled “Classroom” begins with a classroom of children preparing for a field trip and exploring a serene natural environment, with an ominous cover of “Sweet Child of Mine” hinting at the violence to come. At around the 30-second mark we see footage of a driver carelessly speeding along a country road, and around 10 seconds later the segments converge as the driver loses control of his vehicle, and launches off the road, killing the group of children. Although the scene is not particularly graphic, it has been met with varying criticism as being over-the-top, unrealistic, and even traumatizing. “Since 2000, speeding has killed a classroom of our children,” says the voiceover at the PSA’s conclusion. “You can never control the consequences if you speed.”

Whatever you think about the spot’s approach, it is gaining international attention for the issue of speeding, with over 1.5 million views on YouTube since being uploaded a week ago and plenty of media coverage.

“The aim of this campaign is to challenge and dispel, once and for all, through this emotional and uncomfortable message, the false perceptions that many road users have as to the truly horrifying consequences of speeding,”  road safety minister Mark Durkan told Adweek. “People are losing their lives long before they have the chance to fulfill their potential. Families are being destroyed forever.”