David Coulthard advert is latest road safety campaign to race ahead on social media

Former Formula 1 racing driver David Coulthard is putting the hazards of country roads in pole position by fronting a new awareness campaign in Scotland.

You may have seen David in the informative and thought-provoking television advert circulating online or, in Scotland, during the half-time commercial break of the Manchester United v Real Madrid UEFA Champions League clash at the beginning of March. If not, you can watch the Country Roads: Don’t Risk It campaign video here:

It’s already received a lot of positive feedback and the message is clearly getting out there thanks also to support from promotions on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, along with a cinema game. In fact, the advert reached at least 250,000 David Coulthard fans alone within hours of its launch when the Scottish driver tweeted it – emphasising the impact that social media can make on reaching a wider audience.

Former Formula 1 driver David Coulthard fronts the new Country Roads safety campaign.

Former Formula 1 driver David Coulthard fronts the new Country Roads safety campaign.

 But what most people don’t realise is the hard work and planning that goes on behind the scenes for a major road safety project like this.

Road Safety Scotland (RSS), which is part of the Scottish Government, has a publicity sub-committee, which regularly meets to discuss campaigns and which resources to use. As a road safety officer, I have had the privilege of representing the Royal Society for Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) Scotland on that committee for a number of years, and was involved with this latest Country Roads campaign.

It has been a pleasure to be a member of the committee at the inception of this advert last autumn, but staying quiet about which celebrity was involved has been quite a challenge, particularly when interrogated by my colleagues! David Coulthard is from a rural part of south west Scotland and was very keen to support this campaign.


Kathleen Braidwood, RoSPA Scotland’s road safety officer

Seven out of ten road fatalities in Scotland occur on country roads (three quarters of these are men and a third are drivers aged 17 to 25), and there are over 1,000 deaths and serious injuries a year. So, it was decided that the emphasis of this promotion would be on inappropriate speed for the conditions and primarily aimed at men aged between 22 and 40.

My colleagues on the committee – representatives from groups such as IRSO, the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland (ACPOS) and the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM), along with nominated road safety officers from across Scotland – benefit tremendously from the expertise of The Scottish Government’s strategic marketing unit. This unit carried out extensive research on potential scripts and even the value of using David Coulthard, finding out that the target audience would be more receptive to the key message coming from the legendary racing driver as he was seen as a mentor, credible and trustworthy. It is a tremendously creative advert and has been really well researched, using David Coulthard to show rather than tell the audience how to drive.


At this year’s RoSPA’s Road Safety Seminar in Birmingham, Katherine Goodwin, senior strategic marketing manager on the Country Roads project, provided further insight into the campaign and the associated use of social media.

Katherine highlighted how shock tactics and graphics don’t work anymore, adding that people were more likely to change their driving behaviour if they came to a conclusion by themselves in a “lightbulb moment”.

An extensive social marketing media plan was drawn up under the “Don’t Risk It” banner, and included extra features such as behind-the-scenes footage with David Coulthard and his top driving tips. Meanwhile on Twitter, the hashtag #dontriskit was set up and 200 opinion leaders and bodies were targeted to help spread news of the campaign.

Katherine explained that RSS had been at the forefront of using social marketing to promote road safety messages, particularly when trying to inform the hard-to-reach audience of men aged 17 to 21.

A previous campaign to highlight the danger of being distracted by a mobile phone while driving saw Scotland’s first live cinema advertisement come to fruition in 2012 for YouTube, which you can view below:

This hard-hitting video resulted in over 30,000 views and over 2,000 Facebook likes. As a result, Katherine said surveys showed that 82 per cent of people were motivated to change their behaviour and an estimated 36 accidents were prevented, saving over £5million.

Child car seat manufacturer Britax, which sponsored last week’s RoSPA Road Safety Seminar, has also used social media to educate parents. During the seminar, Britax’s technical support manager Mark Bennett said research showed mothers were spending 35 per cent more time online than the general population and were becoming ever more reliant on social media. In light of that, Britax is using Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and bloggers (nicknamed mumbassadors) to communicate with parents.

In 2009, Britax ensured all its seats used harness technologies, similar to that used by rally drivers, to securely hold a child in their seat instead of a shield system. The company has been keen to promote harness technology and the difference it makes, and social media has been a useful outlet for this purpose. Bosses even invested recently in doodle and animation experts to develop a new Five Point Harness video for YouTube, which you can watch here:

It was obvious from many of the speeches at this year’s seminar that social media and social marketing are important communication tools as part of wider public relations campaigns. Delegates were even tweeting throughout the day.

Some of the tweets included:

Peter Cleary ‏@PeteCleary @RoSPA thanks for a superb, thought provoking and informative conference today on a wide range of road safety issues. Most helpful.

Business concept - mobile phone over laptop keyboard

Matt Staton ‏@StatonMatt Very interesting overview of social media by Alex Talbot at @RoSPA conference – love the sliding scale of engagement diagram 

Michael Bishop ‏@MishBop Lots of my interests in one RT – “@RoSPA #RoadSafety role of #socialmedia in making roads safer http://bit.ly/16aEj3o ” @MDrivingTips

Matt Staton ‏@StatonMatt “@therealdcf1: Scottish road safety advert;  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pnzWp1BM8k0&feature=youtu.be …” just been shown this at @RoSPA #rospaconference 🙂 – great message 🙂

Social media consultant Alex Talbott, from attdigital, offered enlightening advice to delegates  warning that social media was a powerful tool, but only “one tool in your armoury” that takes a lot of time to get right. He also urged road safety experts not to fall into the trap of thinking social media was “a young person’s game” that only spoke to young people.

Importantly, Alex pointed out that with most libel cases in the UK now arising from Twitter, as a general rule, “if you wouldn’t say something in the canteen at work, don’t say it on social media”, but if in doubt, read up further information on the topic, such as the BBC Guide to Twitter and the Law.

Kathleen Braidwood, RoSPA road safety officer for Scotland.

One Comment to “David Coulthard advert is latest road safety campaign to race ahead on social media”

  1. A commendable effort by all concerned…but missing something.
    Drivers should be educated on maintaining a suitable distance to the vehicle in front and their approach for an overtaking manoeuvre if they feel the requirement to do so.
    I average 30-40,000 miles a year on Scotland’s roads (including the Orkney, Shetland and Hebridean Isles).
    (in a car by the way…currently a Honda Accord CTDi, not a speed restricted lorry or van).

    By far and away, the most near misses I have ever experienced (on any road) are:

    Drivers who are under the impression that being ‘as close’ to the slower moving vehicle in front gives them some advantage in overtaking. They will ‘bob’ out to have a look, then dart back in (because they have no ‘long’ view of the road ahead) and when that happens with two drivers on both sides of a single carriageway it’s like a Formula 1 crash. They clip some poor soul coming the other way quarter on, and spin them into following traffic. 😦

    What they ‘should’ be encouraged to do is to maintain the minimum ‘two second rule’ to the vehicle in front. This will afford them the ability to see further down the road on ‘both’ sides of larger vehicles (as opposed to being stuck up a lorry’s backside and having no clue to the road conditions ahead), approach a more suitable overtaking speed as the opportunity presents itself (close the gap at speed for overtake), or at the very least, leave space for those who are driving progressively.

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