Lesson 2: What's the message?

Examining a range of road safety advertisements, and planning a road safety campaign.

Learning objectives

For students to:

  • compare 'hard' and 'soft' approaches to road safety campaigns
  • consider how road safety messages can be conveyed effectively to their peers or younger students
  • experience peer mentoring and teamwork
  • challenge inappropriate behaviour among peers and younger students.



Links to PSHE – 1.3, 2.2, 2.34e, 4f
Links to Citizenship – 2.2, 2.3, 4c, 4e
Links to English – 1.1, 1.2, 1.4, 2.1, 2.2, 2.3, 3.1, 4.1


60 minutes, with potential to spend more time developing a campaign.

In this activity, students examine a range of road safety advertisement videos, posters and car advertisements.

Some of the videos are hard-hitting and it is recommended that they should only be used with older students. Teachers are advised to preview materials before using them in the classroom. Consideration must be made of those students who may have been affected by a road traffic collision. See the Managing sensitivities section of the introductory notes.


  • Tell students that you are going to think about how advertising can be used effectively to change people's behaviour on the roads – as pedestrians, cyclists, passengers and drivers.

THINK! road safety - 20 minutes

  • Tell students that the Department for Transport has produced many THINK! road safety campaigns. Run through the Department for Transport advertising campaigns (PDF 270KB) - new window information sheet, which provides an overview of the process.
  • Ask students whether they can think of any road safety advertising campaigns (made by the Department for Transport, or other people)? Where did they see it? Who do they think the campaign is aimed at?
  • What do students think makes an effective road safety advertisement? Can they think of any advertisements which they think particularly worked or didn't work for them?
  • If you have internet access, show students two advertisements, one more hard-hitting, showing quite explicitly the outcome of road incidents and one that is softer, showing positive behaviours or attitudes to road safety, for example Named riders. Links to advertisements are provided in the Media and advertising section. Information about some of the advertisements is provided below.
  • Stimulus materials prompt the students to analyse adverts critically.
    • How could the target audience be identified?
    • How could research be used to identify the behaviour of the target audience?
    • What message is conveyed in the advert?
    • What techniques are used?
    • How is language used?
    • How effective is the advertisement?

Which approach do the students feel are the most effective (hard-hitting or more positive)? Why do they think that some people think that hard-hitting advertisements are less effective than more positive ones?

Planning a road safety advertisement - 35 minutes

  • Following analysis and discussion of the materials, students work in groups to produce either their own plan for developing a road safety advert, or a creative idea for an advert. You could suggest that the advert is aimed at their peers or at slightly younger students, for example the new Year 7 intake, and that it should be relevant to the school location.
  • Students might be inspired by the following two case studies focusing on campaigns developed by young people - Tune into Traffic (PDF 220KB) - new window and Ghosts (PDF 230KB) - new window.

Plenary - 5 minutes

Ask each group to describe their idea to the class in one sentence. Ask the class to vote on which idea they think will be most effective in changing young people's behaviour on the roads. What features of the winning idea make it effective?

Extension activity

  • Students could be take their campaign idea further by completing real research and developing audio or video presentations, debate and advocacy. A wider audience may be included with presentations to the school council, during assemblies or tutor group sessions. See the Taking action activity for more ideas.


  • Teenagers poster
    Poster shows a girl who was talking on a mobile phone and walked in front of a car because she was distracted. The image shows the sequence as the girl flies through the air and lands on the road.
  • Split screen (mobile phones) video
    The video shows a split screen with a man driving home and his partner at home who has phoned him. The driver is telling his partner that he will tell her all about his day when he gets home, but she carries on talking. The driver is using a hands-held mobile phone, but it shows clearly that the driver is distracted by the conversation, as there is a collision. The final scene shows the man slumped in the car with his wife distraught at the other end of the telephone. Please note, using a hands free kit is dangerous as well.
  • Camera phone video
    The video uses camera phone-style footage to show a group of teenagers messing about as they walk down a street. They are enjoying themselves and not doing anything bad. As the first of the teenagers crosses the road, he is not concentrating and is hit by a passing car.
  • Named riders video
    A campaign in which motorists are encouraged to see the 'human' side of motorcyclists and in doing so become more aware of them as road users.
  • Perfect day video
    A motorcyclist goes for a ride and has all the hazards ahead highlighted so that he can have a perfect ride.