Scottish Government must learn lessons of failed drink driving campaign

A campaign to persuade motorists in Scotland not to drink and drive is under scrutiny after the rate of incidence soared by 17 per cent over the festive period, prompting demands for lessons to be learned from the failed initiative.

Lessons must be learned after drink-driving rose during the festive campaign period
Lessons must be learned after drink-driving rose during the festive campaign period
The month-long campaign, which ran through Christmas and into New Year, was launched by Scotland’s Justice Secretary Michael Matheson and Assistant Chief Constable Bernie Higgins in Glasgow at the start of December.

Motorists were warned that even being slightly over the limit would make them a drunk driver and a criminal in the eyes of the law.

The agency Smarts Communicate was brought in by the Scottish Government to run the 2016 Christmas campaign, which aimed "to remind drivers that 'the best approach is none' when it comes to drink driving," according to its 'campaign stakeholder toolkit'.

Campaign materials included templates for a press release, newsletter copy, tweets and Facebook posts, using a mix of PR, radio and partnership.

But just weeks later, it emerged that the rate of drink driving had risen significantly. Statistics released by Police Scotland last month revealed that one in 30 drivers stopped over the festive season were drunk at the wheel – up from one in 36 found over the legal limit during the Christmas 2015 campaign.

There is a need to understand the reasons for the increase and whether improvements could be made to the campaign to maximise its impact.

Alison Douglas, chief executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland
The 17 per cent rise in the proportion of drivers stopped who were over the limit - bringing the total number of drink drivers caught to 625 - was branded "hugely disappointing" by Matheson and "an absolute disgrace" by Higgins.
Alison Douglas, chief executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland, told PRWeek: "The increase in the proportion of drivers who were found to be over the drink driving limit during the festive period is deeply concerning."

She added: "There is a need to understand the reasons for the increase and whether improvements could be made to the campaign to maximise its impact and ensure the public understand that avoiding alcohol completely before driving is the safest option."   

The Scottish Government and Smarts Communicate had not responded to requests for comment at the time of publication.

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