History of road safety advertising

Advertising and education

The purpose of the National Advertising and Education Programme is to influence road user behaviour. It comprises multiple interventions/campaigns that support specific strategic priorities within New Zealand’s road safety strategy 2020–2030, Road to Zero. The programme works in conjunction with other parts of Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency business and with key external stakeholders such as the New Zealand Police to support key safety messages, to influence road user behaviour, support enforcement and to ensure alignment of messaging across the sector.

The programme is strategy-led and takes its direction from Road to Zero. It contributes to achieving the Safe System vision, which is ‘a safe road system increasingly free of death and serious injury’. The programme focuses effort on key areas of concern identified in the strategy, and emerging issues of public concern, such as visiting drivers and keeping left on multi-laned roads.

Road to Zero aims to achieve reductions in deaths and serious injuries through a combination of engineering, enforcement, legislation, advertising and education, and community interventions. Some of these are mutually dependent. No single intervention is expected to achieve all the results on its own.

The role of the National Education and Advertising Programme is to develop effective advertising and/or education programmes to influence and encourage the correct behaviours on our roads.

Road Safety advertising programme

The national road safety advertising and enforcement campaign began in its current form in 1995. However, some one-off road safety advertisements (ads) were developed prior to this. The campaign aimed to influence road user behaviour to contribute to a reduction in the number of people dying or being seriously injured on the road.

In 1995, the National Road Safety Plan set an ambitious goal to reduce the annual road toll to no more than 420 deaths by the year 2001. As this and the other targets of the plan weren't likely to be met without additional efforts and initiatives, a new approach was required.

As part of this approach, a new road safety package to improve driver behaviour was endorsed by government. This package was substantially based on what was then considered world’s best practice: the Transport Accident Commission (TAC) programme that was successfully developed in Victoria, Australia. Between 1990 and 1993 the TAC strategy helped prevent an estimated 10,800 serious injury crashes and halved the state's road toll over the five years from December 1989.

Key priorities for New Zealand roads were identified through research and crash statistics. In 1995 the initial priorities were drink-driving and driving at excessive speed.

The strategy of the campaign was to have an increased law enforcement presence on the roads supported by hard-hitting, high-profile advertising. A blueprint developed from the Victorian experience specified the style, media mix and weight for the advertising component of the programme. From this, vivid, realistic road safety advertisements that specifically targeted offenders were produced.

Between 1995 and 1997, changes to the road toll were dramatic. There were substantial reductions in serious road crashes, deaths (111 fewer), police-reported injuries (19% less) and hospitalisations (12% less).

Since 1995, there's been little change to the campaign's strategy. Campaign priorities are determined by government transport strategies. But while individual campaigns have changed and evolved since 1995, the basic formula adopted from Victoria of intensive publicity to support enforcement, remains the same.

Read more about the government's transport strategy(external link)



Key events


The TAC road safety and enforcement campaign begins in Victoria, Australia.


New Zealand adopts the campaign strategy used by TAC in Victoria, Australia. Our key priorities are drink-driving and driving at excessive speed.


A new stream is introduced. A supplementary budget is provided for safety belt publicity.


As New Zealand has joined the Australian New Car Assessment Programme (ANCAP), ANCAP advertising is introduced.


A new stream is introduced. The advertising campaign focuses on drivers' failure to give way at intersections. This is the third largest contributing factor to road crashes after driving at excessive speed and drink-driving.


A road safety education initiative Up to Scratch is launched with a television special that tests people's knowledge of the Road code and the road rules. The initiative is made up of several scratch test brochures that are designed to test people's driving knowledge. Correct tests (9/10) can be sent in for various prize draws, including the chance to win a new car. Advertising also takes place on television.


While the national campaign's primary audience continues to be the offenders, it expands to include friends and family of the offender and members of the wider community. We want the community to reject dangerous driving and demand a change in behaviour from dangerous drivers.


The Up to Scratch programme comes to an end.


A new stream is introduced. Driving while fatigued aims to raise awareness about the significance of driving when tired.


Along with NZ Police, KiwiRail, the Greater Wellington Regional Council, Veolia and the Chris Cairns Foundation, we have involvement in a rail safety campaign. This campaign aims to increase community awareness of rail safety and promote rail safety throughout New Zealand.


A new stream is introduced. This campaign focuses on vehicle safety and aims to raise awareness about some of the new safety features available in some vehicles. It directs people to the Rightcar website and ties in with the existing ANCAP advertising.


A change to the road user rule means that police can now test drivers for drug-driving. A public awareness campaign is introduced to let people know about the law change.


Government transport priorities change as a result of Safer journeys: New Zealand’s road safety strategy 2010–2020. Accordingly, the campaign is reprioritised. As New Zealand now has a 96% front-seatbelt wearing rate across the country, the national campaign no longer focuses on safety belt use. It also no longer focuses on the failure to give way at intersections or rail safety. Instead, a stronger emphasis will be placed on drug-affected driving and younger drivers.


A new stream is introduced. The first stage of a long-term behavioural change campaign that aims to reduce the harm caused by drug-affected drivers asks the question: ‘Drug driving. Do you think it’s a problem?’

2013 A new stream is introduced. Our ‘Drive Social’ campaign launched with a big, open-ended question: ‘If we stopped thinking ‘cars’ and started thinking ‘people’, would it change the way we drive?’ The campaign aims to change the way people think about the road. It is based on a key insight that people often behave differently on the road than in other social spaces. Drive Social reframes the way people think about the road and driving – from seeing it largely as a solo pursuit to a social one. Our driving affects others.
2013 A new stream is introduced. Our driver distraction campaign starts off looking at the issue of using a mobile phone when driving. 
2014 Drive Social finished as an independent campaign in December. The Drive Social brand is still visible across some other campaigns where it is relevant.
2015 A new stream of drink driving advertising is introduced to support the lowering of the drink drive limit. On 1 December 2014 the breath alcohol limit for adult drivers was lowered from 400 micrograms of alcohol per litre of breath to 250 micrograms, and the blood alcohol limit was lowered from 80 milligrams (mg) of alcohol per 100 millilitres (ml) of blood to 50mgs.
2016 A new public information stream is introduced which focuses on targeting visiting drivers with relevant messages about how to drive on New Zealand roads.
2017 A new focus on the issue of seatbelts is re-established at a national level.
2017 A new public information stream is introduced which focuses on encouraging people to move left on passing lanes and expressways, when appropriate and practical, to allow others to pass.
2018 Fatigue advertising campaign finishes. Fatigue work will continue through a targeted educational approach rather than widespread advertising.