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In 2007, there were 10.6 million automobile accidents in the U.S., according to the Census Bureau. "Per mile driven, teen drivers ages 16 to 19 are four times more likely than older drivers to crash" according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The CDC also states that among teen drivers, those at especially high risk for motor vehicle crashes are:

1. Males: In 2006, the motor vehicle death rate for male drivers and passengers ages 15 to 19 was almost two times that of their female counterparts.

2. Teens driving with teen passengers: The presence of teen passengers increases the crash risk of unsupervised teen drivers. This risk increases with the number of teen passengers.

3. Newly licensed teens: Crash risk is particularly high during the first year that teenagers are eligible to drive.

These are frightening statistics whether you have teenagers at home or not. But do these statistics justify graphic, disturbing, and gory ads and public service announcements (PSA) on TV? You be the judge.

These first three ads are from Volkswagen, and while its Safe Happens campaign wasn’t strictly a PSA, it took on that tone. VW has frequently been on the forefront of progressive, clutter-breaking advertising and these ads were no exception.

This first ad features two friends simply talking as they drive through the suburban streets.

This next one takes the same approach, but this time with a group of teens talking about a movie they have just seen. Interesting when you couple this seemingly innocent car ride with the statistics above regarding teens driving with other teen passengers.

This last ad from VW features two women talking about none other than a graphic commercial where a car accident is featured ... irony at its best.

I recall the first time I saw these ads on television. They certainly got my attention and also got me to think more about safety, so the campaign clearly did its job. I recall the furor over these ads at the time. People were complaining that they were far too graphic and disturbing.

Since that time, however, the issue of distracted driving has become all that more pressing. Texting has become a major cause of traffic accidents in the U.S. Anyone who drives with regularity has seen someone texting in the next lane or worse, been behind someone that is swerving with their head down, punching away at their phone.

The most recent example of this has been Dr. Frank Ryan, better known as the plastic surgeon who transformed reality television star Heidi Montag into a walking Barbie doll. He drove off the side of a cliff in California this summer, reportedly while texting and driving. This conjures up some pretty disturbing mental images to be sure, but likely nothing compared to what you will see in this public anti-texting announcement developed in the U.K.

Fair warning, this is very graphic.

Clearly this ad goes to great lengths to make its point, but it has received well over a million views on YouTube. If you felt that VW crossed a line, there will be no question as to your thoughts on this one.

Still, is this the only way to get our attention in this Attention Deficit Disorder society? Can we only break through the clutter of the distractions in our lives and in our media with graphic messages like these?

The Sussex Safer Roads Partnership felt that getting an auto safety related message to people could be done differently.

Here, we get all the emotion and all of the impact that we received from the gorier anti-texting ad before it but without the violence. This ad too has been passed around and viewed well over a million times. Unlike the other ads, however, this one leaves you with a smile instead of a look of shock.

So which is the more persuasive, memorable and impactful? Only the viewer can say for sure but I would submit that from time to time, it is important to remind people of the reality of their decisions, even if that means some graphic visuals. Still, the public can only handle so much of that type of message on an ongoing basis. To that end, the Sussex ad offers a creative and effective alternative. Hopefully, other PSA developers will take note.

Top Safety Picks 2010 from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety
Buick LaCrosse
Ford Taurus
Hyundai Genesis (built after 1/2010)
Lincoln MKS
Mercedes E class (built after 1/2010)
Volvo S80

Honda Civic (4-door (except Si) with optional ESC)
Kia Forte (built after 10/2009)
Kia Soul
Nissan Cube
Scion xB
Subaru Impreza (except WRX)
Toyota Corolla
VW Golf (4-door)

Audi A3
Chevrolet Malibu (built after 11/2009)
Chrysler Sebring (4-door w/optional ESC)
Dodge Avenger (with optional ESC)
Hyundai Sonata (2011 models)
Mercedes C class
Subaru Legacy
Subaru Outback
Volkswagen Jetta (sedan)
Volkswagen Passat (sedan)
Volvo C30 (2010-11 models)
Dodge Journey
Subaru Tribeca
Volvo XC60
Volvo XC90

Honda Element
Jeep Patriot (w/optional side torso airbags)
Subaru Forester
Volkswagen Tiguan

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 2 Months Ago
      Great article
      • 2 Months Ago
      Great commercials and the one with the accident should be viewed in schools also. Far too many people text and talk while they are driving. Would be an excellent public service message to be viewed by EVERYONE over 13.
      • 2 Months Ago
      CODDLED Americans need to see things like this. To hell with social correctness. All this coddling has made us soft. we NEED to face facts and save lives. Let's be pro-active, not wusses!
      • 2 Months Ago
      These safety ads are perfect. I think they should be a mandatory part of driver education. I think teenagers can handle it.
      • 2 Months Ago
      I find all of these ads very powerful. In terms of what touches deeper and makes an impact, or is transformative, ultimately it has to do with the consciousness of the individual watching. If it is just fear that is triggered, then I feel that it cannot really be deeply transformative but at best result in behavior modification. In that light, the "embrace life" ad is a far more powerful approach to touching our hearts and waking awareness and love up to itself (resulting in responsible action). It inspires and speaks to our sense of life and connection, rather than our fear of death or destruction. We can ask ourselves, which motivates awareness, and responsible, wakeful action more intrinsically, integrally, and efficiently, fear and terror, or the kind of love and connection expressed in the embrace life ad? Fear is tension that can also be divorced in conscious awareness from "embracing life" and the sense of love and wholeness that would embrace life . Fear can obscure or distort perception. When love of life motivates us, there is an innate sense of awareness, and connection at play, unobstructed by a sense of separation and the tensions of fear. Although I do see value in facing and being real about possible horrific outcomes, another possible pitfall of this approach is that one can fall prey to postulating and actualizing negative outcomes when that is where they put all of their energy (even in resisting or trying to avoid them). Our fear based and extrinsically motivated educational paradigms enculturate the disconnection behind attention deficit disorders, dissociation, and irresponsible action. We are used to learning through being punished (by parents, teachers, or the disasters in life) - and do not trust ourselves to learn otherwise. We are used to going towards the achievement of a grade, trophy, or monetary gain, and not the joy of learning, discovering, creating, and experiencing in itself. We are used to being overstimulated where we want more and more just to avoid boredom and are less and less sensitive to subtlety and our own creative will. The embrace life ad is offering another educational paradigm that I feel speaks to and calls forward our innate creative intelligence, and mirrors the heart's deeper truth and the soul's yearning. (This is the first time I have seen any of these ads)
      • 2 Months Ago
      I said at least 19 years old. in my first post and I have no idea as to why they bleeped those words out of my post. I said NOTHING dirty and those asterisks imply that I did. That is not right.
      • 2 Months Ago
      powerful and true/ life can be over in a wink of an eye. wear belts and pay attention
      • 2 Months Ago
      The texting driver died (in the PSA) but also the father, mother, and infant in another car and some others in other cars.
      • 2 Months Ago
      Teens should not get a license until they are at ************** like giving them a lethal weapon. And on the flip side of this topic, Elderly with slow reaction time or have the onset of dementia should not drive either. Their should be a age beginning for driving that should start at 18 and a limit when an elderly person shows obvious signs that they no longer should drive before they kill someone or get themselves killed.
      • 2 Months Ago
      Don,t GIVE under-trained CHILDREN a drivers licence.
      • 2 Months Ago
      Sadly, some of the same people watching these videos will be out driving and texting this very night. I was nearly in a head on collision less than two weeks ago by a person apparently texting. The week prior I was behind a guy, looked like the may have been in his late teens. It was evident he was texting, and was ALL OVER the road. Guess he thought since it was in the country it was ok. Admittedly, I sped up to get his license, but had to let off the accelerator when I got to 70 mph, which was endangering both myself and others. I know I was in the wrong for speeding and realized it. If ANYONE had been coming toward this guy there was at least a half dozen times he was nearly completely on the wrong side of the road in curves where he couldn't have possibly seen another car. After watching the texting video, it hell out of me knowing how easily I or others could've died. Even say a school bus driver texting which is definitely against the law in NC. Just my comments. Thanks
      • 2 Months Ago
      The VW wreck clip should be required viewing for all kids who drive, as well as some older clowns I have observed. Perhaps MTV and VH1 channels could find time to run this also. I realize it's not in their societal changing agenda but it just might help to save some of their brainwashed viewers as well as the innocents they happen to wreck into. Living for the moment can have serious repercussions.
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