A TV ad for the BMW 5 Series, seen on 8 March 2017, showed a man driving through countryside and then through a city. At one point while he was driving, he swiped his hand across a built-in screen alongside the car's dashboard. The voice-over stated "Introducing the new BMW 5 Series. Ambition raised".
The complainant challenged whether the ad was irresponsible, because it condoned or encouraged dangerous or irresponsible driving behaviour prejudicial to safety and in breach of the legal requirements of the Highway Code.
BMW (UK) Ltd said that the driver was shown glancing quickly in the direction of the built-in screen before immediately looking back at the road. He was then shown briefly touching the screen with one finger of his right hand in a sliding motion to change the information shown on it, a process which took less than one second. BMW said the screen showed radio frequency, the weather, the date and vehicle information such as fuel consumption and speed, which was information also shown in the instrument panel behind the steering wheel. BMW said most cars required the driver to move their hand from the steering wheel to the dashboard to activate a CD or radio, air conditioning, volume control, electric windows, etc. and they believed the action taken by the driver in their ad was no different. They said the driver maintained full control of the car, returning his hands to the wheel and his eyes to the road immediately without further interaction with the screen and was not distracted. BMW said the screen was positioned in a way that provided an optimal balance between a clear view of the road ahead and presenting information as clearly and safely as possible in the driver's natural eye line.
Clearcast made similar points. They said there was no impact on the driver's ability to drive safely and remain aware of his surroundings on the road. They considered the relevant requirement of the Highway Code was that a driver "must exercise proper control at all times" and believed the driver in the ad met that requirement. Clearcast believed the type of in-car technology shown in the ad required less involvement than more traditional car features such as turning a dial or pressing a button and was no more of a distraction than reading a speedometer, using a side mirror or adjusting the temperature inside the car. They also believed making a call on a hands-free mobile phone was more of an involved activity than briefly checking information on a screen.
The ASA considered viewers would interpret the ad as illustrating various technological features of the car, including how drivers could use the built-in screen to access information. We noted that the Highway Code advised drivers to avoid distractions and gave "starting or adjusting any music or radio" as an example of a distraction (rule 148); that using hands-free equipment was "likely to distract your attention from the road" (rule 149); that there was "danger of driver distraction being caused by in-vehicle systems such as satellite navigation systems, congestion warning systems, PCs, multi-media, etc" and that drivers "MUST [their capitalization] exercise proper control of your vehicle at all times".
We considered the driver interacted with the screen only briefly and, when he did, there appeared to be no other vehicles in close proximity and visibility was good. We considered the action the driver needed to perform to use the screen appeared to be nothing more than would be involved in a driver adjusting music or the radio, which the Highway Code permitted as long as the driver was exercising proper control of the vehicle. While we appreciated that the examples of actions or possible distractions given in the Highway Code could be undertaken in ways that would mean a driver was not exercising proper control of the vehicle, and that that could also apply to a driver accessing information from a screen, we considered there was no suggestion in the shot used in the ad that the driver was distracted or not exercising proper control. We therefore concluded that the ad did not condone or encourage dangerous or irresponsible behaviour prejudicial to safety and in breach of the legal requirements of the Highway Code. The ad, therefore, did not breach the Code.
We investigated the ad under BCAP Code rules 20.1 20.1 Advertisements must not condone or encourage dangerous, competitive, inconsiderate or irresponsible driving or motorcycling. Advertisements must not suggest that driving or motorcycling safely is staid or boring. and 20.2 20.2 Advertisements must not condone or encourage a breach of the legal requirements of the Highway Code. (Motoring) but did not find it in breach.
No further action necessary.