Victoria's Transport Accident Commission (TAC) is reviving one of its most confronting road safety campaigns – a 1992 ad dubbed 'Bend your knee, Katie' – in an effort to combat a recent rise in seatbelt-related deaths in the state.
The ad, which shows a young woman named Katie being flung from a car in a horrific accident, has returned to television screens as part of a four-week campaign that also commemorates 50 years since Victoria became the first jurisdiction in the world to introduce mandatory seatbelt laws in 1970.
The ad, which was officially titled 'Bones', earned its more widely recognised name from the words uttered by Katie's physiotherapist as she attempts to assist Katie out of her wheelchair amid gruelling physical therapy following the crash.
In 2019, nearly 30 per cent of road fatalities in Victoria were the result of people not wearing a seatbelt – the highest rate since 2012. Of these fatalities, 84 per cent were males and 65 per cent were aged between 30 and 59 years old.
Already in 2020, a lack of seatbelts was a factor in 11 of Victoria's 99 road fatalities so far this year – all 11 of these deaths were in regional Victoria, nine out of 11 were male drivers, eight occurred on roads with speed limits of 100km/h or more and all were single vehicle crashes.
When contacted by CarAdvice, the TAC was unable to provide a specific outline of the circumstances of each fatality, or if additional factors applied in combination
Results of a recent TAC survey of more than 1800 Victorians showed an estimated 170,000 drivers statewide are potentially not wearing a seatbelt when they get in the car – a concerning figure given research shows not wearing a seatbelt can increase the risk of serious or fatal injury by up to 50 per cent.
Additionally, the TAC claims the 2018/2019 financial year saw 13,000 Victorians fined for not wearing a seatbelt.
“It is staggering that 50 years since seatbelts were made mandatory in Victoria, we are still seeing far too many people die our roads by failing to buckle up," Victorian Minister for Roads, Road Safety and TAC, Jaala Pulford, said.
"We know that this ad resonated strongly with the Victorian community when it first ran as it so powerfully showed the enormous upheaval of being injured in a crash, and linked it so clearly to not wearing a seatbelt," TAC CEO Joe Calafiore said.
“There are a range of reasons why people don’t think to or choose not to wear a seatbelt. For example those travelling a short distance, particularly on remote roads, may believe there’s less risk in not buckling up than doing so in busier road environments.”
Last year, 266 lives were lost on Victorian roads – up by almost 25 per cent on the year prior and above the five-year average of 252 fatalities annually.
A January 2020 study conducted by the Royal Automobile Club of Queensland (RACQ) and the Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS) found 6 to 8 per cent of teenage drivers admitted to not wearing a seatbelt. Of those, one in five reported skipping a seatbelt on every trip.
Meanwhile, a recent two-day police operation in South Australia caught 113 people for a seatbelt offence, with SA Police reporting that six people have lost their lives in crashes while not wearing a seatbelt so far in 2020 (representing 22 per cent of the current fatalities where restraint status is known).
As of April 2020, Australia's national road toll was 365 lives lost. In 2018, the most recent year of data available, there were 121 deaths of vehicle occupants not wearing a seatbelt nationally.
The TAC is well known for its controversial and confronting ad campaigns, which it says try to "depict real-life situations and demonstrate the reality of what happens when you are undertaking dangerous driving practices".
"We show highly emotional style commercials because they're very good at reaching hard to talk to and tough audiences. They also spark a lot of debate and get people talking and stick in their memory," a TAC spokesperson has said of the ads.
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