The advertisements use realistic scenes of the aftermath of an accident, showing bloodstained clothes lying on the road, wrecked cars and the sound of police messages talking of fatalities and drivers smelling of drink. The first of the series of 15 commercials was shown last night on ITV as part of a pounds 2m national campaign, aimed particularly at male drivers aged 17 to 24.
The campaign comes as the Government is considering lowering the legal alcohol limit from 80mg per 100ml of blood to 50mg, a move supported by road-safety groups and by the medical profession.
France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Greece and Finland already have a 50mg limit. Legal levels in Portugal and Sweden are even lower.
A new approach has been taken this year to the traditional campaign over the Christmas period. Instead of using a single advertisement shown on many occasions, the Government has decided to confront viewers with a drink-drive message in a different form each time they see or hear it.
Lord Whitty, the minister for roads who was at yesterday's launch, said: "The intention ... is to remind the viewer that every day someone dies as a result of a drink-drive accident."
Previous Christmas campaigns aimed at drink-drivinghave proved a success. Between 1979 and last year, the number of fatal casualties from accidents involving one driver or rider who was over the legal limit fell from 1,643 to around 540. Even though an increasing number of breath tests has been administered in England and Wales, the proportion proving positive has gradually fallen from 20 per cent in 1989 to 12 per cent last year. Convictions for alcohol-related driving offences are also falling.
John Reid, the Transport minister, said at yesterday's launch: "This campaign, now a feature of our calendar, remains a vital tool in our efforts to reduce the potentially awful consequences of drink-driving during the festive season. Christmas always presents a lot of opportunities for social drinking. There is one simple message - the only way to be certain that you will not kill someone is to never mix drinking and driving."
The Association of British Drivers says the government campaign should also warn of the dangers of driving the morning after an evening drinking session.
In an attempt to tackle the problem, police have warned motorists to expect to be breath-tested in the mornings as well as the evenings during the Christmas period.
The vice-chairman of the traffic committee of the Association of Chief Police Officers, Ken Williams, said: "I would remind drivers of the dangers of driving the morning after a major drinking bout.
"Police will be looking for offenders 24 hours a day and not just in the evenings."
The family of three cyclists who were killed by a drunken driver five days before Christmas last year is backing the launch of this year's drink-drive campaign.
Bryan Harrison, 38, his brother Alan, 33, and their brother-in-law Don Smith, 49, were killed when they were hit by a Ford Mondeo car on the A193, near Seaton Sluice in Northumberland last year.
The driver of the Ford Mondeo, Andrew Armstrong, 36, was later jailed for seven years after admitting three charges of causing death by dangerous driving and one of driving with excess alcohol.
He was also banned from driving for 15 years.