Updated December 19, 2016
Shock and awe. Fear. Shame. Gore.
All strategies are fair game when public service announcements (PSAs) convince you to drive safely.
Case in point: the controversial anti-speeding PSA that the Department of the Environment in Northern Ireland released. The video was banned from airing before 9 pm and has prompted an outpouring of responses to the campaign's traumatizing tactics.
In the midst of the tension, one thing is certain: this video isn't the first of its kind. Road safety PSAs have a long, bloody history.
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We've collected some of the most shocking driving safety PSAs, a category where the United States lags sorely behind Britain and Ireland. After all, distracted driving is a growing epidemic in the country. Nearly 1 in 5 crashes involves distracted driving and 61 percent of American drivers admit to using their phone while driving on some or most drives in the past 30 days. People are texting and driving, using social media apps and playing Pokémon GO as they drive, and the results aren't pretty. Americans, it's about time to get scared straight!
Warning: some videos are graphic.
1. Department of the Environment (Northern Ireland) - "Classroom"
This is the DOE anti-speeding video that ignited Twitter complaints about traumatizing viewers. We don't want to spoil the plot, but let's just say that you won't be spared the full view of the impact. Shame on you.
2. New Zealand Transport Agency - "Mistakes"
This brilliant but heartbreaking video from New Zealand hashes out how a small mistake can spiral out of control. According to the NZTA, “speed is still a contributing factor in 20% of all fatal and serious injury crashes on New Zealand roads.”
3. Sussex Safer Roads Partnership (UK) - "Embrace Life"
The award for creative crash interpretation goes to this video by the Sussex Safer Roads Partnership. Cue goosebumps. Just because this video has a happy ending doesn't mean you won't shed a tear.
4. DOE Road Safety (Northern Ireland) – 2007 "Mess" Campaign
Someone in the comments section of YouTube said it best: "Whoa, the Irish don't f*** around with their anti-speeding ads." Ireland's anti-speeding campaign, characterized by the slogan "The faster the speed, the bigger the mess," has been churning out unimaginable driving horrors since this video kicked off the campaign in 2007.
According to the DOE, "from 2007-2011 excessive speed was the principal factor responsible for 1 in 4 of road deaths and it is the biggest single killer on Northern Ireland’s roads."
5. Winnipeg Police Service (Canada) - Just Slow Down Campaign
This depressing anti-speeding PSA from Winnipeg refutes the notion that there is one kind of driving villain terrorizing the roads. The scary truth? Any careless or rushed driver could become a killer.
6. DOE Road Safety (Northern Ireland) - "Get It On"
Don't let the funky tune and the teen romance fool you. This video from the DOE's "No Seatbelt, No Excuse" campaign doesn't end well.
Same campaign, new terrifying voiceover. The takeaway? Nothing will prevent you from killing a car of people should you choose to not wear a seat belt. If you forget to wear your seatbelt—just that once—ask yourself, “Who are you prepared to kill?”
8. New Zealand National Road Safety Committee - Safer Journeys Campaign
The NZRSC gives you an inside look (literally) at what happens when the human body is subject to a collision.
9. Department for Transport (UK) – "Richard Didn't Want to Die"
Another stomach-clenching look at the internal damage you sustain in a crash. Even on mute, it might still make you squirm in your seat.
10. "Julie Knew Her Killer"
In this video, viewers meet an older character from the same ThinkUK campaign as Richard. You can guess what happens next...
11. Surrey County Council (UK) - Drive SMART Initiative
No, Alex is not turning into spiderman. He's being peer pressured. This UK video warns against peer-pressured driving.
12. Ley Canaria de Juventud (Spain) – "Abróchate el Cinturón, abróchate a la vida" Campaign
You might not understand what this video from a "Fasten Your Seatbelt" campaign is saying, but the video, which shows the impact equivalents of a car accident, translates itself.
13. National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration (US) - "Manifesto - Texting while driving video"
This PSA is from our very own NHTSA. It's not as hard-hitting as some of the adverts from Ireland and Britain, but it's good to know that the NHTSA is willing to put fear in the hearts of bad drivers.
14. AT&T It Can Wait – "Close to Home"
Beware that this video will cause anxiety. The suspense of not knowing who the victims will be keeps you on the edge of your seat. Of course, the video is also a good reminder that over 52% of accidents happen within 5 miles of home.
15. Think! UK Don’t Drink and Drive – "50th Anniversary"
Think! UK knows how to put a chilling twist on a party song. This video is incredibly disturbing, but also reminds us not to ruin good fun with bad decisions.
16. Ireland Road Safety Authority – "Don’t Look Back"
You won’t guess where this PSA is going. All it takes is one glance and that’s something not many would expect.
17. Ottawa Provincial Police and Algonquin College (Canada) – "What If"
Every choice has powerful consequences. Consider them before you reach for your phone.
18. AT&T It Can Wait—“The Unseen”
AT&T’s latest “It Can Wait” PSA centers around the choices we make when we’re alone as a father drops his three daughters off at the neighborhood pool. Though more subtle than some of the graphic UK PSAs, the eerie plot twist gets the message across—put the phone down.