What were they thinking?

This is not a joke – this is a real graphic from the SA Motor Accident Commission’s new marketing campaign aimed at discouraging young drivers from doing irresponsible things like speeding or drink-driving.

The core idea is life is very bad without the ability to drive. You might, for example, end up having to walk, use public transport, or – apparently the uncoolest thing imaginable – ride a bicycle!

This TV advertisement shows boys who cycle are an absolute turn-off so far as girls who drive are concerned.

And if you lose your license, you’ll really know you’re screwed if:

“you’re caught in an electrical storm, you’re halfway home and you’re on a bike”, or

“you keep catching your hot date staring at your helmet hair”, or

“the creepy guy on the bus has just made eye contact”, or

“after lining up for 10 minutes in the rain the drive thru girl says: sorry we don’t serve pedestrians”

Now perhaps the Motor Accident Commission’s research shows the prospect of cycling or using a bus is so horrendous for the target market that it is the most effective way of incentivising more responsible behaviour. Perhaps.

But even if that’s the case, it comes at the cost of demonising modes that have to play a much more important role in our cities both now and in the future. If the campaign is actually effective, it could be doing incalculable long-term damage to the way alternative modes are perceived.

I’d be surprised if the creative talent of Adelaide couldn’t come up with a campaign that achieves the responsible driving objective without undermining another important dimension of transport policy. However I’m not quite so confident about the judgement of politicians and bureacrats who would let this sort of message through!