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This Northern Ireland Driving Safety Ad Wants You To Be Ashamed Of Yourself

“Shame on You” isn’t the catchiest tagline, but give Northern Ireland’s Department of the Environment credit for not mincing words.

This Northern Ireland Driving Safety Ad Wants You To Be Ashamed Of Yourself
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In the U.S., when we want to make a PSA reminding people to be more careful on the roads, we tend to focus on the personal consequences: Don’t drink and drive, or you could go to jail! In other countries, though, they seem to prefer to focus on the larger societal consequences of being irresponsible behind the wheel of a car.

Northern Ireland’s Department of the Environment, though, doesn’t just want to caution you about the potential risks involved with speeding: It wants you to be ashamed of the fact you’ve ever accelerated above the posted speed limit. What’s wrong with you?


To highlight that, the department created a 60-second spot that’s so intense that it’s already been banned from the airwaves before 9 p.m. In it, a classroom of joyful elementary school-aged children frolic in the woods on a field trip. The kids, of course, are having a great time learning about nature and catching little river critters. Meanwhile, a grown man–representing you, the adult who is sometimes less careful than he or she should be–is rushing out the door, ostensibly to go do something stupid and trivial. All the while, a forlorn, acoustic cover of “Sweet Child O’ Mine” plays.

As the driver approaches a curve he’s driving too fast to properly prepare for, he crashes through a wall and his car tumbles a few times, right where the assembled children are sitting in a circle. The video is shockingly graphic–there are screams, and close-ups on the wide-eyed faces of terrified kids, and finally a pile of flattened schoolchildren–before the ad cuts to an empty classroom and the words “Shame on You” appear on the screen. The narrator explains that in the past 15 years, speeding has killed an entire classroom’s worth of children in Northern Ireland.

That’s a lot of trauma to inflict on the populace for something that, while certainly dangerous, amortizes out to fewer than two kids a year. But the DOE’s Road Safety minister Mark Durkan defended the ad to Britain’s the Independent, explaining that “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.”


About the author

Dan Solomon lives in Austin with his wife and his dog. He's written about music for MTV and Spin, sports for Sports Illustrated, and pop culture for Vulture and the AV Club.

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