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Green Cross Code 1 (1975)


Main image of Green Cross Code 1 (1975)
35mm, 0.5 min, colour
SponsorCentral Office of Information

Cast: David Prowse (Green Cross)

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Green Cross Code Man instructs some careless kids on safely crossing the road.

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"At the kerb, halt! Look right, look left, look right again. If all clear quick march!" The 'kerb drill', as it became known, was instituted by the National 'Safety First' Association (later the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents) in 1942, and clearly betrays it war origins. It served young British citizens for 29 years until it was replaced by the Green Cross Code.

To ensure that the new Code was understood rather than just learnt by rote - a common criticism of the 'kerb drill' - the government ran a three-month saturation publicity campaign comprising mobile safety exhibitions, films, posters and leaflets at a cost of around £500,000. At the end of the three months John Peyton, Minister for Transport Industries, announced that the number of children killed or seriously injured had dropped by 7 per cent compared with the previous year, but six months later the rate was as high as before. Several analyses of the campaign demonstrated that road safety messages need to be constantly relayed in order to be effective. Mindful of these findings, the Central Office of Information produced an unprecedented number of TV fillers to communicate the Green Cross Code to children. It remains the most comprehensive child safety campaign undertaken to date and is still in use today.

To bring the Code to life, British actor and former Mr Universe David Prowse was teleported to the kerbside in the guise of superhero the Green Cross Code Man to assist careless children. Known simply as 'Green Cross' he remained the archangel of road safety for 14 years, visiting thousands of schools to promote the cause. In 1977 he famously swapped green spandex for the black mantle of Star Wars' arch villain, Darth Vadar. As it was in the three Star Wars films, Bristol-born Prowse's West Country accent was dubbed out of the first two Green Cross Code editions (perhaps not superhero-sounding enough?), but his dulcet lilt is unmistakable in the third. Updates to the Green Cross Code filler campaign include the introduction of the famously impenetrable acronym SPLINK, and, in the 1980s Green Cross's R2D2-style robotic sidekick. While the Code has undergone several changes over the years, the basic tenets - "Stop, Look, Listen, Think" or "Stop, Look, Listen, Live" - have endured.

Katy McGahan

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