The Honest Truth Partnership

November 2013

The Honest Truth Partnership speed posterThe Honest Truth Partnership provides driving instructors with resources containing essential information for their learner drivers, to promote responsible driving and reduce the number of young drivers killed and seriously injured on the roads.

Rob Carlson, a station manager at Devon & Somerset Fire & Rescue Service, explains that the Honest Truth initiative was developed in response to a serious road traffic collision in which a teenage driver and his two friends were killed in 2009. “The collision took place on a fairly straight section of road in the South Hams and there were no other vehicles involved. The police investigation into the incident suggested that part of the reason that the collision happened was that young drivers often don’t realise that they’re engaging in risk-taking behaviour when driving.”

South Devon & Dartmoor Community Safety Partnership called a meeting with Devon & Somerset Fire & Rescue Service, Devon and Cornwall Police, Devon County Council’s road safety team and driving instructors to see if there was anything that could be done to reduce the number of young people losing their lives or being seriously injured on the roads. They also wanted to reduce the impact that anti-social driving has on local communities.

The approach

The partners came up with the idea of using approved driving instructors (ADIs) to spread important safety messages among young people learning to drive. “Driving instructors tend to have around 50 students each year, with each one having an average of 40 hours of lessons. That creates an enormous opportunity to educate and influence young drivers about responsible driving and staying safe on the roads.”

The team engaged with ADIs at an early stage of the project and some instructors joined the existing partners to form The Honest Truth Partnership. By the end of 2009 the partners had created a resource pack to give driving instructors information about the most important safety messages for young drivers. The partners continued to develop their messages and materials with input from local ADIs, and in summer 2012 they launched a website and expanded set of resources. The new website and new resources are designed around the creative concept of using different animals to represent different risk-taking behaviours.

The Honest Truth Partnership drugs poster“The website gives young people and their parents lots of information on risks such as using alcohol or drugs when driving, speeding, using a mobile phone when driving, getting distracted and even showing off. We use statistics and real stories to show young people how making small changes can save lives,” says Rob. “There are also lots of resources for driving instructors who sign up to the initiative, including a teaching resource and information pack, a leaflet for young drivers and parents, and prompt cards to help start conversations about safety issues during lessons.”


  • The initial aim was to sign up 25 ADIs in South Devon to use the resources with their students. The original resource pack was very well received and within a short amount of time the project was extended to the whole of Devon and Cornwall. The initiative had more than 300 ADIs signed up by summer 2011.
  • The project now has more than 600 ADIs signed up across seven regions of England, with interest from other parts of the UK including from the Police Service of Northern Ireland and Police Scotland. The partnership is also delivering a phased rollout to instructors from the AA and BSM driving schools, which will take the number of ADIs engaged to more than 1,000. The team recently sent materials to Romania where they have been translated and are starting to be used for road safety education in schools.
  • In an independent evaluation of the campaign resources conducted by Plymouth University, all of the ADIs surveyed said they use the materials on a regular basis. Young drivers exposed to the campaign were more than three times as likely to know about key risk factors and their consequences. The evaluation report stated: ‘The campaign was effective in stimulating an extra pursuit of knowledge for the majority of participants,” and, “every question relating to knowledge had a significant amount of correct response...this highlighted the effectiveness of ‘The Honest Truth’ in terms of educating participants as part of a long term aim to reduce road collisions.”
  • The initiative has won many awards and commendations, including Campaign of the Year in the West of England Chartered Institute of Public Relations’ Local Public Service Excellence Awards 2013. It was highly commended in the Prince Michael of Kent International Road Safety Awards 2012.

What we can learn

  • Partnership working can help you to make a big impact with a relatively small amount of investment. The Honest Truth partnership was set up at a very low cost, with around £750 of seed funding, and Rob estimates that the total investment to date stands at around £10,000.
  • The partners involved ADIs in developing the campaign materials, to make sure they would meet their needs and would be easy to use when teaching. They also organised focus groups of ADIs and young people to test the effectiveness of their messages and resources.
  • The Honest Truth approach is simple and cost-effective for other areas to replicate. Rob and his colleagues provide support and training to help new areas get started. The cost is minimal for each ADI resource pack plus leaflets, and this provides the Honest Truth board with a sustainable source of funding to continue their work.


Download the evaluation of The Honest Truth Partnership's work (PDF, 782kb)

Further information

To find out more about The Honest Truth Partnership or to explore introducing The Honest Truth into your area, please contact Rob Carlson on or visit

Updated December 2013