Lights, camera, action - on poor parking, filming at the wheel
Our RSA expert appeals to drivers who block paths and to TV stars who talk to camera while driving
Two road-safety issues have sparked more than a few emails recently from the public.
The first is the problem of inconsiderate parking - in particular, on footpaths. It's not just the general public who have a problem with this.
Recently, Dublin Fire Brigade posted a photograph on Twitter of a car double-parked on a narrow road which blocked the fire tenders' path. Their message was straightforward: 'If you park like this, we might not be able to get to you.'
In one part of Dublin, the problem is so bad, the local community has started up its own interest group to campaign, as they describe it, to get their footpaths back.
While it sounds obvious, their campaign aims to stop drivers from parking on footpaths and obstructing the path of pedestrians, mothers with buggies and disabled people.
We also get regularly tweeted by cyclists and cyclist groups with images of inconsiderate parking. This is a particular safety bug bear for them because it exposes them to danger from overtaking motorists and oncoming traffic, even on rural roads.
Of course, such parking also causes an obstruction for other motorists and can impede commercial traffic, which is probably driving to meet a delivery deadline.
At the heart of this issue is the selfish and inconsiderate behaviour of drivers who are committing an offence. It's worth remembering that if you are not prepared to do the socially responsible thing, the penalty points for 'Dangerous Parking' were increased from two to three points a few years ago. This should act as a deterrent in preventing such practices and we would certainly like to see this enforced to a greater degree by the gardai.
Local authorities, through their traffic wardens, also have the power to enforce illegal parking of vehicles on footpaths.
The other issue that seems to have got under the skin of the public is the practice of TV presenters speaking to camera while driving. Complaints from the public say it's a distraction and not setting a good example to viewers.
I have to say that we agree and it is something we have raised directly with the various stations in the past.
It is undeniable that the media, and specifically advertising, influence people's knowledge, attitudes and behaviour. Television, radio and all print media constantly show people driving, riding or walking on the road, in all sorts of advertisements and editorial TV content.
For the RSA, it is important that when filming on the road, people are shown using it in a safe way.
Depicting positive images, showing safe behaviour, may help to prevent collisions and may even save lives. Images showing poor or dangerous behaviour may, unintentionally, have the opposite effect.
Conducting interviews in a car while the TV presenter is driving and speaking to the camera is a distraction and certainly not in the best interest of road safety. I wonder, too, if there are health and safety issues as well; after all, they are engaged in this unsafe behaviour while 'in the workplace'.
With a view to enhancing road safety in the media, we produced the leaflet, 'Road Safety and The Media'.
While this document is designed to act as a guide to help advertisers depict positive images and behaviour, and to help them avoid showing unsafe road behaviour, it is equally relevant for producers and editors in the development of editorial content or documentary programmes for TV.
While we have written to TV stations in the past asking that the practise of speaking to camera be discontinued, it has largely fallen on deaf ears, much like our request to stop using the word 'accident' when referring to road crashes.
Maybe the time has come to shout a bit louder.