THINK! campaign targeting young drivers invokes The Dude for road-safety messages

A pet ferret, references to a sphincter, and howling like a wolf are among the ingredients in an off-the-wall government campaign for the Department for Transport, intended to appeal to young drivers.

A still from Night Driving, one of the films in which The Whisperer advises young drivers
A still from Night Driving, one of the films in which The Whisperer advises young drivers

The humorous 'Road Whisperer' campaign revolves around an enigmatic character, known only as The Whisperer, in an homage to The Dude, played by Jeff Bridges in cult film The Big Lebowski.

Speaking in a Southern US drawl, with sunglasses, scruffy beard and straggly hair tucked under a grimy peaked cap, The Whisperer is an unwanted passenger in a series of short films created by marketing agency VMLY&R.

He stars in the the latest stage of the DfT’s long-running THINK! road-safety campaign, offering advice to young male drivers on subjects including obeying the speed limit.

This is mixed with idiosyncratic phrases such as describing country roads as being "as pretty as shoelaces, but they’ll break your heart", and introducing his pet ferret as a "practising midwife".

In a film on night driving, The Whisperer recalls his nerves when he first started driving, when he had a "sphincter like a limpet", and tells the driver: "Hazards are hidden in the dark, so go steady and give yourself enough time to stop."

The films have received more than 10,000 views since the campaign launched last week.

Road-safety minister Jesse Norman said: "Everyone feels some nerves when they’re on the road for the first time, but it takes a good driver to admit it."

He added: "Confidence comes with time and practice, so it’s important to keep learning and build up experience to become a better driver. And that commitment to keep learning is what this THINK! campaign, with its tips and guidance, aims to create."

One in five drivers has an accident in the first year after passing their test. Recent research commissioned by THINK! found that 17- to 30-year-old male drivers often feel vulnerable on the road, believing that while you only really start to learn how to drive after passing your test, you still need to appear confident in front of other people.

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