(try) Drive Dry

Drinking and driving is one of those touchy topics that everyone tends to avoid discussing unless they have something positive to say.

The start of this week saw the launch of a brilliantly put together, brand new advertising campaign against drinking and driving commissioned by Brandhouse. The ad campaign features a couple of ex-cons as actors who warn the masses about some of the consequences they could face when choosing/not choosing to drink and drive.

The advertisements were constructed to carry on the precedent set by the original “Pappa wag vir jou” ads which used a bunch of guys, who look like the only time they’ve seen the sun and beach is inked out on a fellow inmate’s tattoo.

“Get caught drinking and driving and you’ll get locked up with these crazy bastards”

-was the basic premise and public opinion showed that they had to some point been effective in scaring people into not drinking and driving. According to Justin Gomes, from FoxP2, the agency responsible for the hard-hitting ads, the new campaign is directed towards making people think further than that last drink, to how they were going to get home at the end of the night safely. Named “Who is Driving You Home Tonight”, this campaign looks to marry aspects from the last campaign with the use of various forms of media (tv, radio, print, online) to create the same fear in the public, hopefully reducing how many people drive under the influence.

This is where my issue with a campaign like this and any other campaign around driving dry in South Africa comes in.

In my opinion fear isn’t exactly the best way to complete a prolonged change in behaviour. Sure in the beginning you may not want to drink and drive because you’re hesitant about being the naartjie in the, “let me pretend your arse is a naartjie” competition that normally goes down in our very well managed prisons. So you book a cab and get home safely at the end of the night. What happens in the months that follow when your budget doesn’t allow for you to party safely?

On average a metered taxi is going to cost you around R12 per km, which means that if you leave anywhere further than around the corner from the club it’s going to cost you in the region of R100 if not astronomically more to get home. This is too expensive. If you look at the psychology behind it all you can see that most drinking and driving campaigns are going to fail in South Africa until there is a viable way of getting yourself home, that doesn’t cost you an arm and a leg.

Here’s where some people will start saying things like- “well you shouldn’t go out partying, if you don’t have the money to get home safely”. Honestly though, lets be realistic and realize that going out and entertaining yourself and friends (by sometimes drinking) is more often than not going to supercede any activity or behaviour that doesn’t appeal to our inherent hedonistic traits. Asking people in South Africa to sit at home or to NOT DRINK when out, instead of taking the risk of driving under the influence and getting caught is like asking Joost van der Westhuizen NOT to wear white undies and have sex with prostitutes- it’s a hard sell.

People drink and drive, maybe not to the point of being unable to speak in their native tongue- you catch them and then lock them up with people that are mass murders, rapists and thieves. More strain on our prisons and even less “willing and able to work” people available to further our economy. In my mind it doesn’t seem like the right solution to the problem at all. Maybe a re-examination of the thinking behind behaviour change is needed by the South African government. We have a culture of drinking in South Africa and like it or not, a great deal of things that we do center around the act of sharing a drink around a fire. If there are no viable alternatives available to make sure that you can braai safely, you may try to find the best way to continue braaiing- not so safely and probably rather illegally.

Until there is safe, affordable, public transport that makes it possible for people to get home without drinking and driving in South Africa, I feel for those who choose to drink and drive and get caught for being a smidgen over the limit. In an ideal world we would educate, instead of punish these individuals. Unfortunately that ideal world, is a very long way away.

DON’T DRINK AND DRIVE- you are risking your own life and the lives of others. That blows. We want you at the next party.

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Im a guy with a very particular view of life... im not quite sure what that view is just yet, but when I find out I'll be sure to let you know...


  1. Agreed, Ricky. But the longevity of fear as a deterrent to drinking and driving is effective as long as the campaigns are released often enough. Obviously it’s not a long term option as people will eventually become immune. But for now, there isn’t really another solution. If these campaigns save even one life, I’m all for it.

  2. wow. this is an argument I have had so many times with friends and my gran. Couldn’t have put it any better. I for one live about 40km from my favourite refreshment stations which requires me to take a cab that has facilities for swiping plastic. The public transport system is shot in SA and really needs to be addressed by those who have the means to purchase 3 navy corvettes that pitter and potter in the bay infront of my house, occasionally chased by a submarine. I can hit the train station with a stone from my front door but to be honest I havent used it since i was escorted to the ATM by dandruff encrusted drug dealer, just to prove I do indeed have no money left in my account.

    Im glad you have brought this to the spotlight and I hope it gets the discussion it deserves.

  3. I personally love the campaign as I’ve learned my lesson… I can vouch for the fear when you’re actually in that situation. The add is soft imo – and watching something on a tv screen doesn’t really explain the reality of the situation…oh and don’t forget the human feces which covers the holding cells and that you’ll have to stay at least ’till Monday or Tuesday.

    I understand the argument – as the country do not provide an alternative…

    “Until there is safe, affordable, public transport that makes it possible for people to get home without drinking and driving in South Africa, I feel for those who choose to drink and drive and get caught for being a smidgen over the limit.”

    Fact is this is just one angle to make you sit up and listen to all the reasons why you shouldn’t be driving drunk. Reality is that you can not seriously (and logically) expect the government to take responsibility if YOU end someone’s life because you had an accident – whilst driving under the influence. Sms-ing and talking on the phone whilst driving is just as dangerous – because the fact is you are not giving your full attention, and whether or not you make a mistake, under the influence you’ll be less likely to avoid an accident.

    Other countries’ trains don’t run 24/7, their busses might run 24/7,but if you leave a club after 01:00 you’ll be hanging around waiting for quite a while waiting. Most people clubbing overseas use the buddy system – one person has the honor of getting everyone home safe. I can count the times I’ve taken a taxi clubbing in SA and abroad on my one hand – so the money issue imo is an excuse because ‘hey, we all want to get wasted together’.

    It would be nice if people started realizing that by driving drunk you are putting other people’s life in danger, not just your own.

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