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Lifting the Lid on the ‘Ghosts’….

March 17, 2010


Ashbourne, England – For a moment there I thought that the new UK Department for Transport’s ‘Think Bike Think Biker’ safety campaign would take us all into new territory biker safety wise.

Created by Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO, the new Department for Transport (DfT) campaign encourages drivers to think about people riding motorcycles when on the road, by taking a closer look at the person under the helmet. The £3.5 million integrated advertising campaign reflects a major DfT switch in tactics from depicting crashes to humanising motorcycle riders.

The new campaign has been broadly welcomed by both riders and interest groups as a constructive and refreshing change to recent ‘you bike you die’ fear appeal campaign concepts.

Except in Kent that is, which remains the home of ‘fear appeal’ road safety campaigning. Not satisfied with their notorious, in biking circles, ride a motorcycle end up in a wheelchair campaign. Kent County Council road safety team have now moved onto ‘Ghostlids’.

‘Ghostlids’ is aimed at 16 to 19-year-olds riding scooters and motorcycles of  up to 125cc. Posters featuring a ghostly white helmet are being put up around key crash sites in Kent to highlight the young lives that have been affected by crashes. Tom Morton, Kent Highway Services’ Motorcyclist Safety Officer said: “This new campaign is all about showing to young motorcyclists the dramatic effect crashes have and how to help ensure they minimise the risk to themselves.”

‘Ghost lids’ has an associated website which is frustratingly bad. Frustrating because, putting aside the pictures of bloody knees and toes that have been dragged across road surfaces, it contains some relevant and worthwhile advice on how to ride and how to get kitted to ride. The site has of course got the obligatory crash map, highlighting the sites of fatal and serious road traffic crashes involving the target group. How many were not the fault of the riders concerned I wonder. Not forgetting a ‘feedback’ area which appears to be aimed at victim’s families. All in all not exactly the type of website that will attract 16 to 19-year-old scooterists. A fact that seems to have escaped the attention of the Kent road safety team.

This campaign has all the hallmarks of either a ‘brought in’ package or a package that Kent hopes to sell on. Its one of those ‘seen to be doing something’ campaigns that may be of more benefit to the careers of the team involved than the intended targets. Campaigns like ‘Ghostlids’ are effective only in as much that they reinforce beliefs that scooters and motorcycles are unsafe. They simple put off prospective riders and in this case parents who invariably fund their childs first form of transport. They work by simple reducing the number of riders, in short they scare people away.

A pity considering one UK County, not a million miles from Kent, came up with the idea of appointing road safety ambassadors in schools and colleges. Not to put off young men and women from riding or driving but to encourage them to do it responsible with a message from their own peer group.

So Tom Morton, Kent Highway Services’ Motorcyclist Safety Officer next time you ‘do’ a campaign aimed at young riders consider recruiting a team of young woman in the 16 to 19 age group, train them. Hey you could offer them road safety work experience, after all we need a new generation of RSO’s. Then ask them to disseminate your road safety message to all the young men in their peer group. Bet it works and no ones had the ‘frighteners’ put on.

Still not joined up then, Kent County Council ‘Ghostlids’ ‘you ride you die’. Motorcycle Industry Association ‘Get On’ £3 million on promoting scooter and motorcycle usage. ‘you ride you have fun’.

Bit of a contradiction there!

© Back Roads Rider 2010

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