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A chilling, graphic road safety campaign hitting screens today aims to send young people an "unashamedly strong" message about drink-driving.

The "Trapped" television commercial features two young men in a ute that crashes on a rural road.

The driver survives, but he is left trapped in the vehicle with the body of his dead friend staring lifelessly at him.

The New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) said the ad, aimed at young, male drivers in rural and provincial New Zealand, was "unashamedly strong and confronting".

"This is an important social issue and a difficult audience to persuade to change their behaviour."

Alcohol Healthwatch supported the message - but expressed concern that the advert could be so shocking that some viewers would just "turn away" from the screen.

The campaign is intended to complement the sober driver ads already screening.

Younger drivers, and especially young men, are the worst offenders when it comes to drink driving, the NZTA said.

Drivers aged between 15 and 24 were responsible for 45 per cent of all alcohol-related crashes last year.

More than 1000 people were killed or injured by young drink-drivers during the same period.

The tough campaign is supported by the Alcohol Advisory Council, which said younger drivers hadn't been exposed to the hard-hitting campaigns in the past.

"What they're probably seeing is a generation that does need to be reminded of the serious consequences," said CEO Gerard Vaughan.

But he said shock tactics alone wouldn't work: "Ultimately we need to model positive behaviour and other alternatives."

Students Against Drunk Driving acting national manager Julie Elliotte agreed graphic images were good for grabbing attention, but needed to be followed up with positive messages about sober driving.

Alcohol Healthwatch spokesman Rebecca Williams said she understood the motivation behind the ads, but was concerned at the impact on young children who see the ads, and that some viewers might turn off altogether.

The NZTA website said independent evaluations had shown the use of road safety advertising, along with police enforcement, had helped prevent 300 road deaths since 1995.

Ads are screened at appropriate times, the agency said, given their graphic and emotive nature.