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.