NZTA targets drug-driving myths with hidden cameraadvertising campaign


A bold new road safety advertising campaign hitting screens this weekend uses real footage captured by hidden cameras to reveal the unscripted responses of ordinary New Zealanders when faced with the situation of being an unwitting passenger in a car driven by someone under the influence of drugs.

The unorthodox ads mark the first stage of what will be a long-term behavioural change campaign aimed at reducing the harm caused by drugged drivers.

The covert filming was carried out by the NZ Transport Agency (NZTA) over four days last year, involving a total of 147 people who thought they were being driven to a ‘costume fitting’ for a TV commercial. What they didn’t realise was that their ‘drivers’ were actually actors who were pretending to be driving under the influence of a range of drugs.

Four lead actors drove the cars which shuttled the unsuspecting passengers to their ‘costume fittings’. Each of the actors pretended to have recently taken one of four drugs: cannabis, prescription medication, party pills (Ecstasy), and ‘P’. Hidden cameras in the crew vehicles captured all of the passengers’ actual reactions, which range from complacent, to nervous to angry. All of the participants appearing in the ads have given their consent to be used.

NZTA Chief Executive Geoff Dangerfield says while less is known about the extent of drugged driving in New Zealand compared with research on drink-driving, evidence suggests that drugs may be a bigger factor in crashes than officially reported.

Results of a recent study of the blood of deceased drivers in New Zealand show a number of concerning trends:

  • 31 percent of drivers had used cannabis with or without alcohol or other drugs
  • 18 percent of drivers used alcohol with another drug
  • 14 percent had used drugs other than alcohol or cannabis.

“We know that driving under the influence of drugs is common and widespread, yet our research shows that only one in 10 New Zealanders see it as a problem,” Mr Dangerfield said.

“Current attitudes about the risks of driving on drugs are similar to the views people once had about drink-driving – often complacent, based on unfounded myths or simply ignorant of the facts. Many people currently believe that they can drive safely on drugs, or that drugs actually make them drive better. This campaign aims to challenge those perceptions by raising awareness of the issue, getting people talking and generating debate.”

Mr Dangerfield says the campaign targets drugged drivers as well as people who know them and socialise with them - friends and family who choose to turn a blind eye when someone uses drugs and gets behind the wheel.

The campaign

The campaign will launch on Sunday 15 January with a six week TV flight. The ads all end with the tagline "Drug driving. Do you think it's a problem?" and the aim is that this will spur the debate and encourage the conversation.

The ads themselves will be preceeded with a 90 second ‘teaser’ advertisement introducing the campaign concept, which goes to air on Thursday 12 January.

In addition to TV, we will also provide channels that encourage people to discuss drug driving and react in some way. These channels include YouTube; web forums; online ads; a Facebook page; and a stationary digital billboard in a public pedestrian area in Auckland venue.

Through all of these channels the audience will be able to interact, post comments and opinions, vote on poll questions and see live results. Our plan is to launch a ‘national poll’, gauging how New Zealanders feel about drug driving in real time. Each week we’ll pose a different question, inviting the public to tell us what they think with a simple YES or NO vote. ‘U’ TV, Z Service Stations and street posters will also be used for the polling component of the campaign.

A staged approach

Each aspect of the campaign will be closely monitored to gauge public reactions. Ongoing monitoring is critical to inform the next stage of the programme.

Once the issue is in the public consciousness, the next stage will be to respond to specific views that emerge from stage one.  We want to actively encourage public involvement and adapt the programme to address the drugs, myths and information needs that emerge.