Auto manufacturers should not be allowed to get away with a new round of "go faster" advertising slogans reminiscent of the early '90s. Safety advocates a decade ago successfully persuaded carmakers to "cease and desist." Now, it appears they, and Congress, may need to do it again.
Consider just a few of the plethora recent examples: Volkswagen's "Blink and You'll Miss It" tagline; Hyundai's "Disappears faster than a dotcom" campaign; Mazda's "Zoom, zoom, zoom" and Alfa-Romeo's "Festival of Speed" themes. Isuzu claims a car "faster than a speeding bullet." Even the venerable Mercedes has this line: "There's one tearing down a back road in the south of France."
In a society where NASCAR racing has become a runaway top spectator sport, the government should be alert to how these not-so-subtle messages end up in excessively fast driving, which is a big factor in car crashes.
The emphasis on speed is not just in the US. Auto clubs in Australia complain such car ads encourage poor driving habits in teens, and have developed national slow-down campaigns aimed at the principal offenders: young males. New Zealand's fast- car culture got some brakes applied with ad campaigns about road safety, and more police patrols.
Belgium recently required all car advertisements to contain warnings that drivers are responsible for safe driving. Ad agencies and automakers that don't comply will get a stiff fine and a possible jail sentence.
Most commercial content is protected by free speech in the US, but the Federal Trade Commission and Congress ought to take a closer look at curbing this reckless trend to equate fast cars with prestige.
Common sense can prevail on Madison Avenue, too. Cars can be sold creatively without a destructive emphasis on speed.