Comic puts drink-drivers in the picture

By Wayne Thompson

Dylan Horrocks says it's easier to reach people with a comic. Photo / Supplied
Dylan Horrocks says it's easier to reach people with a comic. Photo / Supplied

A free comic book called Who's Driving? will be offered to patrons of sports club bars in a South Auckland effort to cut drink-driving accidents.

It tells the experiences of two young people who at the end of an evening out find neither is sober enough to drive.

The comic concludes with phone numbers of local taxi companies.

In emphasising the choices available to the couple, this advertisement differs from others in various media pushing the anti drink-driving message, says Papakura District Council road safety co-ordinator Donna Dick.

"It's aimed at the 18-30 age group that is difficult to get through to ... scare tactics do not seem to work."

A change of tack was needed after years of campaigns that had failed to lower the district's high-risk rating for alcohol-related crashes.

The council enlisted the help of resident Dylan Horrocks, who is the creator of Hicksville and writes scripts for the Batgirl series.

"It's not an anti-drinking message - it's just once you have had too much you get a cab," said the cartoonist.

"An advantage with the comic medium is that people are more relaxed when they start reading one and you can reach all kinds of people and tell a story of characters making the right choice."

The comic characters are male and female because both sexes are evenly split in drink-driving offences among the 18-30s age group.

About 3000 copies of the comic have been printed and will go to sports clubs in the Papakura and Franklin districts.

Counties Manukau road policing manager Inspector Heather Wells has challenged all clubs to follow the lead of the Ardmore Marist Club which is putting copies out for patrons.

"We want people to have an enjoyable experience, drink responsibly and get home safely," said club president Rob Burton.

The Transport Agency identifies Papakura as a high-risk area because alcohol plays a part in 22 per cent of its fatal or serious-injury crashes.

Ms Wells said checkpoints resulted in 10 to 12 arrests at a time and some blood-alcohol readings were very high.

Land Transport spokesman Andy Knackstedt said the organisation's current campaign used vivid, realistic ads aimed at offenders.

Mostly, the ads showed an offence and the consequences for the offender - a blueprint borrowed from Victoria, Australia, where the road toll halved in the campaign's first five years.

"The campaign is one of the most effective seen in New Zealand.

"It has raised public awareness and changed driver behaviour.

"Independent evaluation shows it has helped save more than 300 lives since it began in 1995."

Mr Knackstedt said young men were a difficult group to reach and the campaign aimed to change their behaviour, including showing alternatives to drink-driving such as having a sober driver, taking a taxi and sober driving as something that mates did to get each other home safely.

- NZ Herald

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