Drunk Driving Postage Stamps: Trying to Lick a Social Problem
Your Hump-day Recess: Sticking it to Drunk Drivers
Anti-drunk driving postage stamps represent the intersection of the public safety campaign – in many countries a pervasive and persistent one – and an almost universal method of sending messages. Governments have been using postage to get across vital messages since the early twentieth century. Postage moves into all corners of a country and reaches almost everyone, and the cost of transmission is paid for by the public without much resistance, or even thought. And a stamp offers great coverage: the messages on the stamps are read by the sender, the letter carrier, and the recipient. Even in this age of email, they are an excellent medium for communicating public service messages, cultural information, and of course, propaganda.
With the proliferation of cars around the world came a concern with drunk driving – often belated, and for a long time not accompanied by effective policies to stop it. Yet the carnage was obvious and, governments tried what they could to combat it. Stamps were an obvious choice. However, size is the limitation here. The tiny real estate involved – “postage stamp” is a synonym for “small area,” after all – meant that there would be few words and no way to express complex ideas.
The solution? Style. Go for an interesting, even arresting graphic. Catch the eye and get in at least a reminder for those who don’t take drunk driving seriously enough.
Some of the stamps employ the “one or the other” idea – here the Danish and the French examples are in that category. The Spanish and Australian stamps used the time-honored method of illustrating a car crash, in the former case a literal treatment, in the latter a whimsical one.
The German stamp, as you might expect, is more abstract and philosophical: it seems to be saying that alcohol and driving are opposites that must remain so.
Finally, we come to the question that we always ask when discussing any anti-drunk driving campaign, whether it be on television, in print, or on social media: how effective is it? How much can drunk driving postage stamps do to change someone’s decision to drink and drive?
Truth be told, not much. The value in these is that they remind everyone that the movement to end drunk driving exists, and that the official word is that impaired driving is not acceptable to society. Postage is produced by a government entity, and it speaks with authority.
Curiously, we weren’t able to locate any US drunk driving postage stamps. Perhaps the Ad Council campaigns that saturated television and magazines for decades were considered pervasive enough in this country.
In any case, with legislators clamoring for better DUI laws, and 25 states mandating ignition interlocks for all DUI offenders, it’s safe to say that the message is out in America – though it’s not always heeded.
We salute all the countries that continue – through traditional and new methods – to raise public awareness of – if not entirely stamp out – drunk driving.
Your Hump Day Recess: Every Wednesday LifeSafer brings you something a little different, related to the worlds of road safety, to ease your progress over Hump Day and through the week.
Previous Hump Days: a German Ignition Interlock spoof from 1960,, a different kind of Anti-DUI message, Budweiser’s dogged anti-DUI campaign, How Not to Dodge a Parking Ticket, the world’s worst traffic jams, a dramatic buzzed driving PSA , an offbeat ad from New Zealand, Vince and Larry, our favorite crash test dummies, some excellent Soviet anti-drunk-driving posters, a lesson on how buzzed driving can ruin your love life, South Australia to Drunk Drivers: Grow Up!, a woman calls 911 to report herself for DUI, Felix the Cat and Drunk Driving, DUIs who crash vintage cars – (ouch!), Woman Unwittingly Creates Self-Driving Car, A Brilliant PSA from Australia, a Road Safety Message in a Vodka Bottle, a PSA about binge drinking that is decidedly “meh,” Drunk Driver Crashes $4 Million Car, Drunk Driving in 1910, a Superb New Think! PSA from the UK,Drunk Driving in 1955: New Breath Test Technology Will Save the Day!, the Best Animated Gifs About Drunk Driving, Angle Parking: A Surreal DUI Stop Photo, a Hertz Advertisement that Could Have Used Another Set of Eyes, and a Laugh Out Loud Anti-Drunk Driving Ad.