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A television advert has been banned due to showing a driver using the dashboard screen built into the car to read a text message. The advert for the new Peugeot 208 was broadcast on television in the United Kingdom in July, and saw a man reading a woman’s text message, which read “I’m bored without you”, while driving through the streets of a city, to which he responded by raising a hand in the air. The manufacturer strongly denies the idea that the advert condoned irresponsible or dangerous driving in any way.
Five viewers said that the advert was misguided because it encouraged driving that was irresponsible or dangerous. However, Clearcast, the advert clearance agency which responded on behalf of Peugeot and itself, denied the claim, saying a driver briefly looking at a message located on a dashboard screen was no more of a distraction, and certainly no worse, than a driver being allowed to adjust music on a car radio.
Clearcast says that the driver removed just one hand from the steering wheel for just a fleeting moment, which was no more than would be necessary for him to change gears. Peugeot has also pointed out that the screen on which the text message was displayed was deliberately designed so as to not be a distraction for the driver, and that it’s positioned at eye level in order to enable the driver to keep their focus on the control of the vehicle they are driving.
However, the complaints were upheld by the Advertising Standards Authority, which declared that adverts could not be seen to be condoning or encouraging irresponsible or dangerous behaviour while driving which would be a breach of the Highway Code in the UK. The ASA determined that even though the text message was positioned at eye level, the driver taking the time to read it still resulted in an inevitable distraction from his concentration on the road he was on, and that the driver then reacting to the message also posed a distraction. Both of these would have prevented him from having full awareness of, or controlling other actions that are crucial to safe driving.
The ASA has ruled that the advert cannot be broadcast on television in its current version anymore. The body told Peugeot that future adverts should not encourage or condone irresponsible and dangerous behaviour which is in breach of the Highway Code’s legal requirements while driving a vehicle, and is detrimental to safety.
In response to the ruling made by the Advertising Standards Authority, Peugeot released a statement saying that while they accepted the ruling, they still do not accept the conclusion that the television advert in any way condoned irresponsible or dangerous driving. The statement noted that the driver’s use of the indicator stalk in order to read the text message was fleeting, and that in the view of the company, the scene was no different to, and offered no greater distraction than any other standard operation carried out by indicators.