The Honest Truth road safety campaign

It’s a sad fact that every year, dozens of young people are killed on UK roads. What’s just as depressing is the fact that most of these deaths go unnoticed by anyone other than friends and family.  

But when three young people were killed in a car crash in July 2009 it would have more far-reaching implications, as this event would lead to directly the launch of a UK-wide road safety initiative called The Honest Truth. 

The collision happened in Averton Gifford in Devon and those killed were aged 9, 17 and 18. As you’d expect, the emergency services were heavily involved in dealing with the aftermath of the crash, and they decided it was time to try to tackle the issue of youngsters dying on our roads for once and for all. 

A partnership was set up between the fire & rescue services, the police, plus representatives from the local authority and community safety. So far, so predictable. But this time there was an added dimension – the inclusion of approved driving instructors (ADIs). And why not? Driving instructors are at the heart of road safety and giving people the best possible start to their driving careers. 

Until the arrival of The Honest Truth, ADIs focused pretty much exclusively on the mechanics of driving. So you’d be technically competent at test time, knowing how to negotiate a roundabout or turn in the road, but you probably wouldn’t know all about the dangers of mobile phone use at the wheel or the consequences of drink driving. The Honest Truth set out to change that.

Eve's brother Tom was drunk when he crashed into a tree at speed. The car caught fire and he was pronounced dead at the scene. Eve speaks frankly about how the crash affected those left behind

Set up with just 25 ADIs and covering only the Devon area, The Honest Truth was a low-key programme initially. But with input from so many road safety professionals, it was a scheme that was bound to grow, as word spread about its effectiveness. Within less than two years there were over 300 ADIs involved across Devon and Cornwall, and that figure has now mushroomed to more than 1200 nationwide. 

One of the reasons for the tremendous success of The Honest Truth is the instantly recognisable imagery that it uses. Instead of depicting people in a conventional way, each type of driver is given the identity of an animal – and the traits that go with it. 

So the habitual mobile phone user is a parrot, the insurance dodger an ass (donkey), while a peacock represents drivers who feel the need to show off. If you’re hooked on speeding you’re a cheetah, while if you refuse to wear a seatbelt you’re a rhinoceros. Conventional it isn’t, but there’s no denying the campaign is eye-catching and memorable.  

So if you’re an ADI, check out The Honest Truth website to see how you can get involved. 

If you’re learning to drive, you can go to the same website and find out where there’s an ADI near you, who is signed up to the scheme and who can make sure that you get the best possible – and safest – start to your driving career.