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NZTA campaign targets drugged-out drivers

A new road safety campaign is making use of hidden camera footage to reveal the unscripted responses of ordinary New Zealanders upon finding out they are being driven around by someone high on drugs.

A new road safety campaign is making use of hidden camera footage to reveal the unscripted responses of ordinary New Zealanders upon finding out they are being driven around by someone high on drugs.

The ads, produced by Clemenger, kick off a multi-channel campaign aimed at reducing the harm caused by drivers under the influence.

The covert filming was carried out by the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) last year, involving a total of 147 people who thought they were being driven to a costume fitting for a TV commercial. What they didn’t realise was that their ‘drivers’ were actually actors who were pretending to be driving under the influence of a range of drugs.

Four actors drove the unsuspecting passengers to their fittings. Each of the actors pretended to have recently taken one of four drugs: cannabis, prescription medication, party pills (Ecstasy), and ‘P’. Hidden cameras captured the passengers’ reactions, which range from complacence, to nervous, to angry.

The campaign launched on Sunday with a six-week television flight. The ads all end with the tagline “Drug driving. Do you think it’s a problem?”

They are part of a wider campaign involving YouTube, web forums, online ads, a Facebook page and a stationary digital billboard in an Auckland pedestrian area. Through these channels the audience will be able to interact, post comments and opinions, vote on poll questions and see live results.

The plan is to launch a national poll (making use of TVNZ’s U channel, Z Service Stations and street posters) gauging how New Zealanders feel about drugged driving in real time. Each week a different question will be posed, inviting the public to say what they think with a simple 'yes' or 'no' vote.

Each aspect of the campaign will be closely monitored to gauge public reactions. The next stage will be to respond to specific views that emerged from stage one and adapt to address the drugs, myths and information needs that have emerged. 

“The whole point of this campaign was to start a conversation.  And, although it is early days, judging from the social media comments and blogs over the weekend, it’s certainly done that,” said Clemenger managing director Andrew Holt.

Clemenger has been the driving force behind Land Transport safety campaigns since 1999 – impressive, considering the account must be put out for tender every three years by law.

NZTA chief executive Geoff Dangerfield says while less is known about the extent of drugged driving in New Zealand compared with drink-driving, evidence suggests that drugs may be a much bigger factor in crashes than officially reported.

A recent study of the blood of deceased drivers in New Zealand show some concerning trends:

• 31 percent had used cannabis with or without alcohol or other drugs.
• 18 percent of drivers used alcohol with another drug.
• 14 percent had used drugs other than alcohol or cannabis.

“We know that driving under the influence of drugs is common and widespread, yet our research shows that only one in 10 New Zealanders see it as a problem,” said Dangerfield.

“Current attitudes about the risks of driving on drugs are similar to the views people once had about drink-driving – often complacent, based on unfounded myths or simply ignorant of the facts. Many people believe that they can drive safely on drugs, or that drugs actually make them drive better.”

This story originally appeared on StopPress.

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