It may not be a widely known fact, but road crashes are the leading cause of death for people aged under 25 years. In South Australia, people aged 16 to 24 years make up just 12 per cent of the population, but account for 27 per cent of road fatalities and 30 per cent of serious injuries.
Inexperience, poor hazard perception skills and risk taking are all considered to be among the major contributing factors to this disturbingly high youth road toll.
With a limited number of road safety programs available in South Australia, instilling both an awareness and appreciation of road trauma to novice drivers, the RAA undertook the challenge to raise the awareness of the dangers faced by this age group.
Following extensive research into the needs of this target group, Street Smart – the RAA’s inaugural youth road trauma awareness event – was developed. The aim of Street Smart was to bring South Australian school students, in years 10 through 12, face-to-face with the seriousness of a road crash by witnessing a simulated crash scene and hearing presentations first hand from young people whose lives have been affected by road trauma.
Post campaign surveying indicated achievement of the campaigns aims, with the attitudes of many participants to road safety having changed.
One of the most significant threats that young people face as they progress from a teenager to a young adult is that they are more likely to be involved in a serious car crash than any other driving group. With South Australians aged 16 to 24 years making up just 12 per cent of the population, it is concerning that this age group accounts for 27 per cent of road fatalities and 30 per cent of serious injuries which occur in SA.
Currently in South Australia there are a limited number of road safety programs available which tailor road safety messages to novice drivers. As South Australia’s peak non-government body representing South Australian motorists, the RAA felt an obligation to fill this void.
Extensive pre-event research was undertaken to provide an insight into the way novice drivers viewed road safety and to understand the message delivery required to have a lasting impact on their attitudes and behaviour.
The research indicated that those in this vulnerable age group had an overwhelming desire to do the right thing on the road, but many raised concern at the current messages they were subjected to and the consequent delivery methods utilised.
Consultation also occurred with a number of the State’s principal emergency service providers (including SA Police, SA Metropolitan Fire Service and SA Ambulance) and respected road safety advocates, such as leading trauma surgeon, Dr Bill Griggs, to determine the key Street Smart messages.
Other activities conducted in the research phase included:
• A desktop review to identify existing road safety programs.
• Web-based scanning to identify any similar education campaigns, tactics and the outcomes achieved.
• Consideration of what would be the most effective communication medium mix to reach the target audience.
Post-event research was also undertaken to gauge the thoughts of those in attendance in order to assist with the staging of the event in future.
This campaign involved a number of target publics – all with different yet equally-important requirements, including:
• Novice drivers – particularly secondary school students in years 10 to 12.
• The parents of novice drivers.
• The State’s emergency service agencies – including SA Police, SA Metropolitan Fire Service and SA Ambulance.
• The State Government, namely the Minister for Road Safety and the Minister for Education.
• The broader South Australian motoring community.
• Other road safety stakeholders (booths/exhibits).
• Media – local and regional.
Given the diverse and broad target publics, it was important to consider a wide range of communication mediums and strategies in order to achieve a significant penetration into this audience.
The development of the communication strategy saw the following occur:
• Design of a central campaign image that had application across samotor – The RAA Magazine, communication with SA secondary schools, online imagery and material used at the event.
• Direct communication with the primary target public: SA secondary schools, in particular students in years 10 through 12.
• Electronic communication channels utilised (RAA website and Facebook) to communicate effectively with the target publics.
• Key journalists were identified and teaser stories developed.
• Endorsement of the key Street Smart messages was sought from appropriate personalities who the students in attendance would relate to.
• Media releases disseminated and an event launch staged.
When communicating to the target audience, messages were designed to balance the safety concerns but without appearing heavy-handed. Importantly, the strategy needed to create the appropriate environment for novice drivers to learn and develop an appreciation of road trauma, without feeling as though they were being lectured.
Key messages for this campaign were:
• Car accidents remain the leading cause of death for people under the age of 25. In 2008,
16 to 24 year-olds represented just 12 per cent of the population but made up 27 per cent of
South Australia’s road fatalities.
• A momentary lapse of concentration on the road can have drastic life-changing consequences.
• By educating and providing students with the necessary risk assessment and decision-making skills it is hoped that Street Smart will be a life-changing, and potentially life-saving, event for those that attend.
Promotion of the event commenced in the Nov/Dec 08 samotor – The RAA Magazine. The purpose of this feature was to promote the event and to encourage attendance. Concurrently, each school in South
Australia with a secondary enrolment were contacted and made aware of the event. A number of schools were targeted for attendance – particularly those in regional South Australia – with support provided to ensure their attendance.
With a simulated crash scene determined as the optimal way to communicate with the target group, the services of the SA Police, SA Metropolitan Fire Service and SA Ambulance were secured to provide the students with a visionary insight into what exactly occurs at a crash scene. Leading Australian trauma surgeon, Dr Bill Griggs, was also approached and kindly donated his time to narrate the day.
Opportunities to have the Street Smart message endorsed by appropriate personalities were also explored. A commitment to attend the event and endorse the key messages was secured from V8 Supercar drivers Craig Lowndes and Mark Winterbottom.
Prior to the event, key journalists were identified and teaser stories developed. The samotor magazine and talkback radio were identified as ideal opportunities to engage the motoring public and encourage debate. Talkback radio producers were provided with information on the importance of staging such an event, and a subject spokesperson was made available for comment.
Following the event an article was developed for the May/Jun 09 samotor – The RAA Magazine, reporting the event’s outcomes.
The following table outlines the timing and implementation of the activities for this campaign:
More than 3,500 students in years 10 through 12 from 39 schools across South Australia attended the inaugural Street Smart event with positive feedback received from a significant number of parents, students and schools who attended.
The two samotor articles featuring the Street Smart event were well received, with each read by an estimated 535,000 readers.
Advice to the media prior to the event generated extensive media coverage on the day (refer Appendix A5). More than 55 media items were generated supporting the event and promoting the Street Smart message. Pre- and post-event coverage was generated in The Advertiser and online through AdelaideNow, who featured multiple stories and produced a short video summary of the day’s events.
Television interest proved to be extremely popular with the event covered by all commercial news services (Seven, Nine and Ten), and featured on A Current Affair – Adelaide. Radio support was also strong with items generated on the ABC, 5AA, SAFM, Triple M, Mix 102.3 and Cruise.
The presence of the V8 Supercar drivers Craig Lowndes and Mark Winterbottom proved to be extremely popular with both the students and the media in attendance.
Post-event surveying showed that more than 90 per cent of students said that the day had an impact on their attitude to drink driving and to speeding. There was also significant change in attitudes to car safety, with 32 per cent in a pre-survey stating they want a car with good safety features verses 66 per cent post the event.
Whilst longer term, evaluation is underway to monitor the changing attitudes of younger drivers towards road trauma, the initial feedback from students following the event was positive.
In recognition of research which suggests the impact of “one-off” events is significantly diminished if not followed up, the RAA has begun developing a secondary campaign to continue the promotion of the events key messages with those who attended.
The evaluation methods used for this campaign are identified in the table below: