National Highways paid influencer dad £15K for road safety video… despite him appearing to ‘illegally film it while holding a SELFIE STICK at the wheel’
- EXCLUSIVE: Simon Hooper slammed after ‘using selfie stick on motorway’
- Imaging expert says he ‘looks like he is holding it’ despite influencer’s denials
Britain’s highways agency has been left red-faced after paying £15,000 to an influencer who filmed a road safety advert in which he potentially broke the law, MailOnline can reveal.
National Highways gave influencer Simon Hooper, who posts as @father_of-daughters, the five-figure sum to film a sponsored post for their T.R.I.P. summer holiday road safety campaign.
But video imaging experts told MailOnline that Hooper – who shared the advert with his 855,000 followers on Instagram – appears to have used a selfie stick while driving on the motorway that was later scrubbed from the footage.
Road safety charities have also hit out at Hooper for allowing his daughter to rest her legs on the centre console while he was driving, inches away from the car’s gear stick.
Hooper’s wife, Clemmie, is currently under a year-long caution handed down by a nursing watchdog after making ‘racially offensive’ comments about other influencers on an online forum.
The video was flagged to MailOnline by a road safety campaigner who asked not to be identified.
She said: ‘I’d have thought if you were using £15,000 of taxpayers money you’d make sure everything in the video was safe and a good example of how to drive.
‘Anyone with an ounce of road safety knowledge would shudder at what would happen to his daughter’s legs if they were involved in a crash.
‘It is beyond belief the government are paying these sums to people generally, but especially ones who haven’t appeared in a great light recently.
‘Influencer culture is one thing but government departments paying £15,000 of taxpayers’ money to controversial influencers is shocking.’
Hooper’s video, posted on August 10, was tagged as an advert for the T.R.I.P campaign and shows the ‘dadfluencer’, together with Clemmie and their children, driving on a number of main roads in England – including the A303 past Stonehenge.
In the minute-long ad, he tells his followers: ‘Drive carefully, and give other people lots of space. We all want to get where we’re going.’
But the Kent-based influencer appears to have been grasping a selfie stick while driving at motorway speeds, with his other hand on the wheel.
Another shot also appears to have been filmed with a camera directly in front of Hooper’s face as he drives in the fast lane on the motorway in the rain.
Statutory regulations state that ‘no person shall drive…if he is in such a position that he cannot have proper control of the vehicle or have a full view of the road and traffic ahead’.
The portable 360-degree cameras – which can show footage from any angle – are popular with extreme sports enthusiasts because of their ‘invisible selfie stick’ feature, which uses clever software to slickly erase the stick from recorded footage.
In a post made weeks earlier, Hooper said he had acquired a camera made by Insta360, which boasts on its website: ‘The Invisible Selfie Stick disappears in your edit, enabling you to capture aerial angles and third-person perspectives that are only possible with a 360 action cam.’
Hooper, who shot to fame after he began posting content about being a dad to daughters Anya Rose, Marnie, Ottilie and Delilah, has taken to Instagram to deny that he was holding ‘the camera’ in the clips.
He said: ‘At no point I was holding the camera whilst driving and the camera was always fixed in secured position when any shots of the moving car were captured.’
But Oliver Hall, director of film production firm Liquona, which specialises in 360-degree filming, says there are hints in the clip itself that a selfie stick was used and digitally removed from the footage.
Cameras that film in 360 degrees do so by capturing footage from two ultra-wide-angle lenses on either side of the camera at the same time – using software trickery to ‘stitch’ the footage together, which users can reposition to any angle.
But the software is not perfect – and ‘artifacts’ can appear at the point where the two sets of footage are blended together including, according to Mr Hall, around Hooper’s hand, where he appears to grasp at nothing.
Imaging expert Mr Hall said: ‘It would look to me like the image was recorded on a 360 camera being held on a selfie stick. From the image shared it looks like he is holding it.
‘Cheap 360 cameras have two lenses pointing in opposite directions, where these two images join together you get a ‘stitch line’.
‘It looks to me like the stitch line is right where his hand is. That would imply the camera is on a selfie stick as the stitch line is likely to be perfectly inline with the selfie stick.’
Another shot of Hooper getting his kids out of the car, filmed from above, shows his hand has been slightly distorted by the software as it worked to cut out the rod.
And in an Instagram ‘story’ post promoting the ad, the camera was held outside of the car as it drove at speed on the motorway – but the selfie stick is not visible, giving the impression the device is floating in the air.
A freedom of information response, seen by MailOnline, confirmed that Hooper had been paid £15,000 after being hired via a ‘partner agency’, and that ‘two rounds of revisions’ were applied before the video was approved for publication.
Road safety experts have also hit out at Hooper for letting his daughter rest her feet on the centre console, inches from the family car’s gear shifter, while he was driving on the motorway.
Nicholas Lyes, director of policy at road safety charity IAM RoadSmart, said: ‘While the messages in the video offer valuable tips on keeping safe on the road, it’s not advisable for passengers to use the central console as a place to stretch their legs given that many essential driving tools are located in and around this part of the vehicle – not least the gear stick.
‘A napping passenger stretching their legs through the middle can also accidently knock the driver when their hands are on the steering wheel.
‘The best way for everyone to stretch their legs is to pull over in a service or rest area, get out of the vehicle and take a break.’
A National Highways spokesperson said that Mr Hooper had ‘assured’ the agency that he did not use a selfie stick, and confirmed that it had vetted the footage before it was published.
However, the body would not be drawn on whether it condoned the behaviours in the video, including his daughter resting her feet on the centre console, and whether it would hire him for future videos.
The spokesperson said: ‘Simon Hooper, a macro-influencer, was hired via our partner agency. Social influencers provide us with the opportunity to reach new audiences in ways that generate more and promote our messages more widely.
‘Simon Hooper assured us he was not using a selfie-stick but instead a 360insta camera which removes the image of the mounting on top of the car and makes it look much higher above the car than it actually is.’
The spokesperson would not be drawn on the content filmed inside the car, adding: ‘I’m afraid at this stage we aren’t in a position to add anything more.’
Representatives for Mr Hooper did not respond to multiple requests for comment from MailOnline, and a direct message to his Instagram account went unanswered.