Safety stars

The FIA has joined forces with a host of celebrities from the world of motor sport and beyond in its continuing quest to dramatically reduce the number of global road fatalities
FIA, Motorsport, Mobility, Road Safety, F1, WRC, WEC, WTCC, World RX

Every day, 3,500 people are killed on the roads. It’s an alarming  gure, a plague that needs to be stopped, a human, economic and social cost which has become unacceptable. Now, this is also the message of a global advertising campaign, the  rst undertaken by the FIA, thanks to a collaboration with JCDecaux, the world leader when it comes to outdoor advertising. The campaign will be launched in the near future and it links the face of a celebrity to one of each of the FIA’s Golden Rules. The messages are short and simple, aimed at promoting good behaviour, which should be the norm for anyone who gets behind the wheel of a car on the road. 

“Road traffic accidents are the cause of 1.25 million deaths and 50 million injuries every year,” says FIA President Jean Todt, who also serves as the UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy for Road Safety. “We cannot sit by and do nothing when faced with these  gures. I am proud that the FIA and its member clubs are in the front line to meet this challenge and raise awareness about the importance of road safety.

“A lot can be achieved simply by respecting a few basic rules, such as those the FIA has been promoting for some time now,” he adds. “We want this campaign to reach as many people as possible around the world and to achieve that we have called on a number of leading celebrities who can help, thanks to their popularity and visibility. In addition, we asked for support from the leader in the  eld of roadside advertising, JCDecaux.”


To date, seven stars have agreed to act as campaign ambassadors - Fernando Alonso, Yohan Blake, Marc Márquez, Felipe Massa, Rafael Nadal, Pharrell Williams and Michelle Yeoh. However more could yet join, including a major star of world football. Clearly, these people don’t just come from the world of motor sport, but also from other sports or di erent spheres of endeavour such as music and  lm. This diversity is aimed at attracting the attention of the largest possible number of people, especially young ones from the ages of 15 to 29, the group for whom road accidents are currently the outright number one killer. With that in mind, the campaign will also feature a push on social media with video messages and a ‘making of ’ story relating to each photo.

However, at the centre of the campaign are the advertising hoardings managed by JCDecaux, with a target audience that can reach 300 million people in 75 countries on all  ve continents, in a widespread and extremely e cient manner. “When Jean Todt told us about this project, we immediately got involved. Road safety is a battle that we must never cease to  ght, and that’s why we did not hesitate to associate ourselves with it,” says Jean-Charles Decaux, Co-CEO of JCDecaux SA. “We must collectively and individually take action against the scourge of road accidents. This is the reason why we are very proud to contribute to broadcasting these messages to take care and stay safe – we cannot accept that so many lives are lost and so many futures ruined.”

Artistic direction of the concept came from the Meanings agency, which entrusted the project to world-renowned photographer Vanessa von Zitzewitz, known for her portraits of luminaries such as Mick Jagger, George Clooney, Michael Schumacher and Ringo Starr.

“I have immense respect for Jean Todt, who is a true friend,” says von Zitzewitz. “I have always been struck by the passion with which he tackles any project and so I happily accepted this commission. Road safety is a really important topic. I have always loved speed, but now, especially as I have a young child, I have become more conscious of the risks one is exposed to on the roads and I am happy that with my camera, I can do something, because not everyone is really aware of it.”

Each of the seven faces of the campaign is linked to a Golden Rule that in some way re ects their personality or the activity for which they are best known. For example, the Jamaican sprinter Yohan Blake, twice Olympic Gold medal winner in the 4x100 relay (London 2012 and Rio 2016) and second in 100 and 200 metres in London 2012 Olympics behind his friend Usain Bolt, is the ambassador for the rule relating to respecting speed limits. “If you are running late there’s no point racing at the wheel, because you’ll never get the time back,” quips Blake. “Speed? Leave that to me!” Two-time Formula One World Champion Fernando Alonso, who is promoting the use of seat belts, an essential tool of the trade in his line of work, says: “Racing drivers can set an example for everyone and therefore help save lives.”

Fellow racer and former Ferrari team-mate Felipe Massa has put himself in the shoes of someone using a pedestrian crossing. “My son and Felipe’s go to the same school and we often meet,” reveals von Zitzewitz. “We all know the importance of holding one’s children by the hand whenever crossing the road, teaching them to be careful at all times because danger is always lurking...”

Michelle Yeoh is an acclaimed actress and producer and since 2008 she has been actively involved on the road safety front. She is a Global Road Safety Ambassador for the UN Decade for Road Safety 2011 to 2020 and a spokesperson for the FIA High Level Panel for Road Safety. In this campaign she promotes the use of on-board child safety equipment.

“Road safety is a fundamental human right, starting above all with the most vulnerable in society – our children,” she says. “That makes it all the more shocking that every day 500 children die in car crashes, with thousands more left seriously injured. Governments have the primary responsibility to improve road safety, but everyone has a role to play. So when you’re on the road, follow the rules of the road and make sure your child always uses a safety belt, wears a helmet, and gets the best protection possible.” 

Pharrell Williams has rede ned today’s popular music scene and has an amazing following, especially among the younger generation. Who better therefore to put across the message that a smartphone, a device that’s particularly popular with youngsters, is best kept in your pocket when driving? “We all drive and the last thing we want is to be involved in a road accident,” he says. “In the past, I too used to use my phone to send texts while I was driving, but then I realised, partly from seeing the statistics, just how dangerous that can be. As an artist I’m perfectly aware that my fame allows me to do something for a good cause and road safety is one of them.”

What results can we expect from such a wide-ranging campaign? As usual, Jean Todt’s view is brief and to the point: “Even if just one life is saved thanks to the example our ambassadors can set, then we can claim it has been a success.”

This article comes from FIA Magazine Auto #16. You can read the full magazine here.