Friday, February 15, 2013

Another year, another TAC failure

Dear TAC,

I can't do this dance anymore. You say that you're interested in safe motorcycling, but the fact is you just don't act like you are. You refuse to listen to criticism, you never admit when you're wrong or make a mistake, you lie, and when you're called on the lie, you lie some more. Trying to reason with you is like dealing with one of my 6 year old's tantrums, and I don't put up with this behaviour from her so I certainly won't put up with it from you.

Lies: Professor Stevenson from MUARC testified before the RSC that the 38 times figure is wrong. “Thirty-eight is inaccurate. I would put that on record” were his words. Yet you continue not only to run the TV ad which relies on that stat, you have it plastered on billboards around Melbourne.

You told MAG that you were 'considering' running the ad again, an announcement that was met with near universal concern and negativity as I hear it. Given the ad screened within 24 hours of that announcement it was clear that you weren't just considering it, you had decided to do it and had already booked it in. You intentionally attempted to mislead MAG. You lied.

You chose 'The Ride' in flagrant disregard for the explicit recommendation of the RSC that messages that place the responsibility for riders solely upon the rider were to be redressed, not encouraged. When called on this, you claimed that the ad 'targets drivers as well as riders.' TAC, that is another lie. If you honestly believe that, you're lying to yourself. Here's the voiceover:

"Motorcyclists have 38 times the risk of death or serious injury, regardless of whose fault it is. Not wearing protective clothing increases the risk. Speeding increases the risk. It's up to you to reduce the risks."

I do not accept that this voiceover targets drivers and encourages them to watch out for riders, and it further damages your credibility (if that is possible) for you to continue to assert that it does.

So enough with the lies. If you were my daughter, I would have already sent you to your room long ago. So here's the rub: I give up on you. You disregard all attempts to engage with you to improve your effectiveness on motorcycle safety. You disregard riders, you sideline and lie to MAG, and you ignore the report of the parliamentary inquiry. Your behaviour is in fact worse than my 6 year old's worst tantrum, because she is at least willing to examine the evidence and reason.

So I've had enough with you, you're a waste of time and tax payer money. If you ever decide to take your responsibility as a road safety body seriously and decide you want to come up with a motorcycle strategy that draws on more than your own data and the Neilsen Net Ratings (, you know where to find me. But in the mean time, go think about what you've done. But I suggest, just for a change, you take your own advice and put yourself in our shoes. In case you're wondering, it looks a bit like this:

"So far this year, 5 of our motorcycling brothers and sisters have been killed on the roads. This is a terrible start to the year and we are grieved by this loss, and our thoughts are with the families and loved ones.

"We're still hopeful because the report from the RSC inquiry into motorcycle safety had so many excellent and well researched and justified recommendations. Then we hear that the TAC is running an ad, and for a brief moment we dare to entertain the hope that the TAC has read the RSC report, taken it onboard, and has changed its approach on safe motorcycling.

"Instead, we find that they've rehashed The Ride, probably the most appalling and certainly the most reviled ad that the TAC has made on motorcycling, worse even than the Motorcycle Reconstruction debacle. We can't believe they chose that ad, after the stat was publicly debunked during the RSC hearings, and the tagline of 'its up to you to reduce the risk' spitting in the face of the RSC recommendations, but they did.

"So we tell them they've made a mistake. We tell them that they've screwed up royally and that they should pull the ad. Instead of coming clean, instead of even contemplating that they may have made a mistake, they lie more. They try to justify the ad, try to defend the stat, try to claim that somehow it encourages drivers to watch out for riders. They justify themselves with self-deceptions like "motorcyclists never like it when we point the spotlight on their behaviour" even though other states manage to achieve a 95% approval rate from riders for their motorcycle safety ads that tackle the same issues. They ignore our concerns, they ignore the evidence, they ignore the advisory groups and they thumb their nose at the parliamentary inquiry. They simply bury their heads in the sand and continue on their same, ineffective way."

TAC if you were merely an advertising agency, I'd say you should be pretty embarrassed with yourselves. Your target audience is telling you that you got it wrong, and you're ignoring them. But you're not an advertising agency, you're a supposed road safety body. You should be more than embarrassed with yourselves. You should be disgusted. Rest assured, we are disgusted with you. Five motorcyclists have died, and you carry on with the same old spin, the same ineffectual campaigns, the same stubborn arrogance, the same old lies. TAC, it's not the riders who aren't listening.

It's you.

Now go away, pull your head in, and have a good long look at yourselves, at what you've done, and what you've failed to do.

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