One of my pupils on a driving lesson the other day mentioned “Barely Legal Drivers”, a series on BBC3 and started explaining some of the things she had seen in the last episode. Thinking that she must have been dramatizing her account of it, I took a look at the latest episode “Dom and David”.
In this episode a young lass by the name of Dominique is filmed displaying her complete disregard for road safety by reading texts while driving, swerving along a single carriageway road, and taking both hands of the steering wheel.
I see that the BBC has attracted some complaints by airing this series, and here is a reply from the BBC to defend their position.
It strikes me that there is a bit more to this than that reply deals with, and I’d be really interested to hear your views on this.
Firstly, what I saw Dominique doing on that episode is not “Barely legal driving”, it is illegal – illegal because it is by its very nature, dangerous driving. Since when do the Police ignore evidence that provides with such clarity, a known individual (in terms of being able to instantly identify) committing criminal offences?
But secondly, my main concern with this, is how this series might be perceived by new, young drivers. It seems to me to be glorifying that kind of driving. At the very least it is reinforcing that type of behaviour, either consciously or not, and by doing so, could well influence others who watch it, into believing “Oh right, if that’s what others are doing when driving, I guess it must be ok if I do the same”.
The influence of tv/videos on behaviour should not be under-estimated. This does not necessarily need to have a known, recognised effect on the mind. There is new evidence being discovered by the likes of Robert Cialdini that suggests, scientifically, that the effects of what we observe may actually be different to our initial predictions. He offers this ad about The Crying Indian which ran in the States decades ago, and generally regarded historically as a supremely effective ad to prevent citizens from littering. However, Cialdini who for those who do not know him, is highly regarded in the world of social psychology, is suggesting that actually, the scenes that you can see in the ad can have an entirely different effect on viewers. Where they see that litter is scattered everywhere, instead of deterring people from littering, can be perceived as reinforcing the behaviour as it is shown to be such a common occurrence – this is PRECISELY the opposite effect of the original intended message.
Personally, I think the BBC should pull this series with immediate effect on the grounds that not only are they recording individuals committing criminal offences in the name of “entertainment”, but also, the effects on some of the viewers who will watch this series, might unknowingly, reinforce that as being acceptable driving behaviour.
If you have a view on this, feel free to ping it down below.
EDIT: Have heard from Police today (21/05/2014) on my Twitter feed that Avon & Somerset Police Force is currently considering prosecuting any drivers from “Barely legal drivers” who have committed driving offences in their area. I will update this blog when I discover any new information.