MP puts the brakes on fast car ads

The Sunday Telegraph

Sunday 25 August 1996
Advertisements depicting cars exceeding the speed limit should be banned, according to the head of a NSW Parliamentary road safety watchdog.

The Staysafe Committee has written to Volvo Australia demanding an explanation for an ad it claims encourages people to break the law. The newspaper ad says the Volvo 850 T-5R is "a bullet on wheels" which can "power along at 245 km/h." It goes on to say: "It handles more like a Porsche than a Volvo" and "may be faster than a cheetah."

A recent Volvo television commercial features a Volvo being pursued by a police car before becoming airborne, to a voice-over intoning "we have lift-off."

Staysafe Committee chairman Paul Gibson confronted Volvo about the ads during a recent trip to Sweden, and was told the focus on speed was purely marketing driven. The Labor MP believes the ads breach the Advertising Standards Council's code of ethics, which prohibits ads from encouraging people to break the law.

"I believe there should be an inquiry into ethics codes covering advertisements to ensure they adhere to the law of the land," Mr Gibson said. Australia has a maximum speed limit of 110 km/h.

The Pedestrian Council of Australia is appealing the ASC's rejection in June of its complaint against the television ad. The ASC concluded the commercial did not breach the code of ethics, stating "there was nothing in the commercial that encouraged speed or dangerous driving."

The Pedestrian Council believes the ASC must accept some of the blame for road deaths if it continues to permit such advertising. "This is a concerted and widespread campaign by Volvo to tell consumers that Volvo is capable of speeds and performance well outside the law," PCA chief executive Harold Scruby said in a letter to the ASC.

Mr Gibson said the ASC's contention that Volvo was in fact promoting a safe driving message was inaccurate. He called on the ASC to ban advertising campaigns which promoted driving in excess of the speed limit.

In rejecting the PCA complaint, the ASC stated the intention of the television commercial was to depict the car as exciting to drive.