Story of THINK!

Take a look back at the story of THINK! and where it all began.

The UK government has been running road safety campaigns for more than 75 years. The Central Office of Information (COI) ran the government’s road safety campaigns until 2000, when THINK! was officially established as the government’s designated road safety campaign.

Since then, THINK! has become recognised internationally for its iconic and ground-breaking campaigns that have challenged dangerous behaviours on Britain’s roads. Our campaigns have evolved from encouraging the use of seat belts to tackling excessive speed, drink and drugs, and the use of mobiles at the wheel. In the decade that followed the conception of THINK!, road deaths in the UK reduced by 46%.

  • 1926

    The earliest record for road deaths show 4,886 people died that year. By 1941 the number of road deaths had rocketed to 9,196.

  • 1946

    The Central Office of Information is founded and runs all marketing and publicity campaigns for the UK government, including road safety campaigns.

  • 1950s

    With the rise of TV ownership, Public Information Films (PIFs) become a staple of British television.

    1950s Road Safety PIFs | THINK! Road Safety


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  • 1963

    You Know It Makes Sense is the first ever seat belt campaign, 20 years before it becomes compulsory for all drivers and front seat passengers to wear one.

  • 1964

    The first ever drink drive campaign launches three years before drink drive laws are introduced. The photo montage-style advert was a very different approach from the shock tactics that become synonymous with later campaigns.

  • 1967

    Batman’s Kerb Drill is one of the first Public Information Films for children, highlighting best practice for crossing the country’s increasingly busy roads.

    Batman's Kerb Drill | THINK! Road Safety


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  • 1970

    Your Seat belt is their Security encourages drivers to ‘clunk’ their car door and ‘click’ their seat belt. Clunk Click becomes a theme for national road safety seat belt campaigns.

  • 1971

    The UK government begins reporting annually on the number of people killed and seriously injured on the country’s roads. There are 7,699 deaths and 344,000 injuries reported this year.

  • 1977

    Think before you drink before you drive becomes the Christmas campaign slogan after research shows that deaths peak over the festive season.

  • 1978

    Think once… think twice… think bike! is the first campaign to encourage motorists to look out for motorcyclists when pulling out from junctions. The tag-line is later simplified to THINK! Bike, THINK! Biker.

    Think Once, Think! Bike | THINK! Road Safety


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  • 1980

    As roads became busier, Mark is one of the early campaigns urging parents to keep an eye on young children near roads.

    Mark | THINK! Road Safety


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    Road deaths fall to 5,953 — a trend that continues for the next 3 decades.

  • 1981

    Clunk Click Every Trip and Clunk Click Even On The Shortest Trips will become the tag-lines and calls to action for countless future campaigns encouraging drivers to wear a seat belt.

    Archive Clunk Click road safety advert


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  • 1983

    Forget Everything is part of Fancy a Jar? Forget the Car campaign that warns drivers that police can test at the roadside for alcohol using breathalysers. It is a step away from the usual shock tactics, focusing instead on how new technology can catch offenders.

    Forget Everything | THINK! Road Safety


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  • 1987

    Funeral Blues is the first advert to use real footage from a funeral for a campaign. A class of children read at the funeral of one of their friends in this powerful and emotional advert encouraging drivers to reduce their speed.

  • 1990

    Kathy Can’t Sleep tells the story of a girl who can’t sleep because her father kills a boy in a car crash. The iconic advert will go on to play for nearly a decade, supported by posters, billboards and radio adverts.

    Road deaths fall to 5,217.

  • 1992

    This anti drink-drive advert shows a young Denise van Outen playing a girl who has been hit by a drunk driver. Attempts are being made to revive her while the driver says he didn’t mean to hit her.

    Quick Drink | THINK! Road Safety


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    We also launch our Kill Your Speed, Not A Child campaign.

  • 1994

    The Elephant campaign educates car passengers that not wearing a seat belt in the back can kill those sitting in the front. Kill Your Speed campaign also launches.

  • 1995

    The TV ad One More, Dave causes controversy by highlighting that death is just one of the more serious personal consequences of drink driving. It shows a young man left paralysed after being encouraged by friends to have another drink before driving home. The advert, which ends with a now-paralysed Dave being fed his dinner by his mother, was taken off air after complaints.

  • 1996

    The new Kill Your Speed campaign encourages drivers to slow down by showing the number of children killed near their homes. It uses emotive music, poetry and relatives’ voices.

    COI – Kill Your Speed (1999, UK)


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  • 1997

    No, Not Now was the first of a series of adverts featuring the Hedgehog Family. Later, adverts included the original song ‘King of the Road’ and a cover of ‘Stayin’ Alive’. The success and popularity of the Hedgehog adverts would see them stick around for almost 2 decades.

    Think! Hedgehog Road Safety- "No, Not Now" (1997)


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  • 1998

    One of the most iconic and shocking road safety adverts to date, Julie was developed to encourage younger drivers to belt up. It marked a significant change in attitudes and contributed to a 23% increase in seat belt use over the next year.

    Think! seatbelts – Julie


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  • 1999

    The first ever BBC simulcast commercial airs. It uses the start of the Millennium to encourage drivers to think about their future and the impact that drink driving can have.

    Drink Driving – Mike & Joy (1999, UK)


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  • 2000

    THINK! is officially established as the government’s road safety campaign. Road deaths fall to 3,409 – the lowest since records began.

  • 2001

    The beloved Hedgehog Family are back with a new look and a dedicated website. The latest film and song are shown on children’s TV channels and in schools. A campaign targets parents to show how to fit a child’s car seat.

  • 2002

    Driver fatigue becomes a focus after research reveals that 10% of all crashes happen due to driver tiredness.

    In other campaigns, Think Bike, Think Biker urges drivers to check for motorcyclists at every junction and we launch a campaign encouraging parents to check their child’s car seat every trip.

  • 2003

    This Backwards advert played as part of the You don’t get a second chance campaign that features an online interactive crash simulator.

    Backwards | THINK! Road Safety


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  • 2005

    Distractions, aimed at teenage pedestrians, becomes the first TV commercial to be shot entirely on a mobile phone. Recorded road deaths fall to 3,201.

  • 2006

    Two versions of this striking advert are created for either side of the TV watershed. It’s 30 For A Reason highlights that going just 10 mph over the speed limit can be the difference between life and death.

    It's 30 For A Reason | THINK! Road Safety


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  • 2007

    A new THINK! drink-drive advert launches to emphasise the consequences of a conviction.

    THINK! Dont drink and drive


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    The Department for Transport launches a crash helmet safety rating scheme. ‘SHARP’ – Safety Helmet Assessment and Rating Programme – gives an independent rating (from 1 to 5 stars) of the protection a helmet can provide in the event of an impact.

  • 2009

    THINK! launches the first national drug drive campaign. Eyes warns drug drivers that their eyes can give them away if pulled over by police. Recorded road deaths fall again to 2,222.

    Drug Drive TV ad 'Eyes'


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  • 2010

    The Live With It speeding campaign highlights the lasting psychological effects of killing a child.

    Live With It- TV ad


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  • 2011

    Richard Didn’t Want To Die is a graphic portrayal of the impact of not wearing a seat belt.

  • 2012

    The new THINK! Biker campaign urges drivers to keep an eye out for motorcyclists. Shorter 10 second adverts play at petrol and service stations.

  • 2013

    The award winning PR stunt Pub Loo Shocker makes drivers aware of the consequences of drink driving on a night out. Reactions are captured on camera as drinkers are suddenly confronted with a bloody face in the mirror as they wash their hands.

    The number of recorded road deaths continue to fall.

  • 2014

    THINK! celebrates 50 years of campaigning against drink driving with a controversial Christmas advert.

    THINK! Don’t Drink Drive 50th Anniversary Advert


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  • 2015

    A new drug driving campaign launches as police begin testing for drugs at the roadside. There are now more reasons than ever to be paranoid.

    THINK! Drug Drive: More reason to be paranoid


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  • 2017

    The Carvin family speak direct to camera in a powerful advert urging drivers to put their phone away while driving. The campaign launches the same day that the penalties double for drivers caught using their phone behind the wheel: from 3 to 6 penalty points and fines from £100 to £200.

    The Carvin Family: Life without Zoë (30 sec with subtitles)


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    A Mate Doesn’t Let A Mate Drink Drive marks a shift in how drink drive campaigns are communicated to young men. It uses the power of peer groups to influence decision making.

  • 2018

    THINK! re-launches its child and teen education campaign, with more than 50 new resources for teachers and parents. The campaign is fronted by children’s TV presenter and CITV star Sam Homewood.

    Child & teen campaign launch | THINK! Road Safety


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