Shock can pay for road safety

18th April 2003 at 01:00
A road safety campaign rejected by senior police chiefs as too shocking for public use could be tried out in schools in the south of Scotland.

The campaign, which challenges the conventional wisdom that "shock horror" tactics do not work, highlights an accident in Texas four years ago in which Jacqueline Saburido was trapped in a burning car following a collision with a vehicle driven by a drunken 18-year-old.

Sixty per cent of her body was severely burnt. Now 23, her fingers have been amputated or fused together. She has no hair, nose or left eyelid. She can barely see.

Jacqueline has undergone more than 40 operations and is a candidate for the world's first face transplant - due to be carried out at the Royal Free Hospital in London.

She agreed her photographs could be used on posters which use the slogan:

"Not everyone who gets hit by a drunk driver dies. Don't drink and drive."

The photographs have now been discussed by guidance teachers at St David's High in Dalkeith and used with sixth-year pupils in a programme run by Lothian and Borders Police. The force, which has the largest road safety unit in Scotland, wants to use the Jacqueline Saburido story for senior pupils in all 65 secondary schools in its area from next autumn.

Paul Richardson, the force's road safety manager, said: "Jacqueline's features do look horrible but children and young people see worse on television and the cinema. We want to make sure we get across the message that a momentary act of bravado can have lifelong consequences." Mr Richardson said that such tactics needed to be used sparingly. "They should never be used in isolation but as part of an educational programme."

Earlier this year, the poster images were rejected for use in national road safety campaigns by a subcommittee of the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland. They were said to be "too hard hitting to be used in a general public programme without explanation".

Their use in schools, however, is backed by the RAC. Sue Nicholson, its public affairs manager, said: "Shock tactics bring home the full horrors of drunk driving. It is imperative we influence teenagers. They are just not 'on message' with regard to drinking and driving. We have to use innovative tactics to get through to them."

A spokeswoman for the Scottish Road Safety Campaign, which is backed by the Scottish Executive, took a different view: "Our current campaigns aim to get people to associate with our adverts. If they are too shocking they can adopt an 'it will never happen to me' mentality. At the moment, advice from psychologists suggests that softer, non-shock tactics are more effective."

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