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Poignant video that says: speed does kill

The assembled press was silent as the television screen went blank, and the minister, Steven Norris, was fighting back tears as he tried to speak. No one could disagree when he finally managed to blurt out that "this is the most powerful advertisement ever seen on British television".

The new advertisements, which are the latest instalment in a five-year campaign against speeding drivers, have broken new ground by showing home video footage of children who were later killed in road accidents near their homes. The images of happy children at home and on holiday, a couple of them even waving goodbye as if knowing their fate, are the backdrop to readings of poems about death by WH Auden (whose Funeral Blues appears below), Christina Rossetti and Walter de la Mare. At the end, it is revealed that all the children were killed in road accidents. The result is incalculably more effective than the sleek advertisements with actors used in the past.

The videos of six children - Laura, just 6 weeks old, Tracy, aged 6, Adam, 7, Andrew, 11, William, 11, and Donna, 13 - are all being used with the permission of the parents as part of a pounds 1.7m campaign that will be running this month. It also includes a series of radio advertisements featuring the voices of relatives of the children. The parents were traced by the advertising agency, Abbott Mead Vickers, through local council road safety officers, but have been promised anonymity.

Mr Norris, the roads minister, who asked that the families be left alone with their grief, said the youngsters had all been killed near their homes and all within 30mph speed limit zones. He stressed that the campaign was not aimed at "boy racers" who were unlikely to change their habits, but at "Mr and Mrs average responsible citizen" who did not understand the dangers of speeding in urban areas.

He said that over 1,200 people - a third of the total road deaths toll, including 160 child pedestrians - were killed and over 100,000 people injured in 1995 in speed-related crashes.

RoadPeace, the national charity representing victims of crashes, said advertising campaigns did "little on their own to cut speeds". The organisation is calling for a 20mph limit in built-up areas, on-board speed limiters on new vehicles and tougher speed enforcement.

Mr Norris said that while over 200 20mph zones had been established in the past five years, a blanket introduction in urban areas would be counter-productive because it would be widely ignored on roads where "it seemed inappropriate".

Edmund King, head of campaigns at the RAC, welcomed the campaign and said: "Physical traffic-calming has grown with the spread of cameras and road humps, but what we really need is mental traffic-calming in the minds of a minority of drivers."

Attitude problem 12pt

People regard drinking and driving as a crime as serious as armed robbery, but consider urban speeding less serious than TV licence evasion, according to a Department Of Transport survey yesterday.

Speeding was seen as extremely serious by 52 per cent, but only 33 per cent thought doing 40mph in a 30mph limit was extremely serious, compared with 42 per cent who thought evading the TV licence was.

Funeral Blues

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,

Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,

Silence the pianos and with muffled drum

Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead

Scribbling on the sky the message He Is Dead,

Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,

Let the traffic policeman wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, My East and West,

My working week and my Sunday rest,

My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;

I thought that love would last forever; I was wrong.

WH Auden