With a membership of more than 570,000 South Australian motorists, the RAA employs 120 Road Service patrols and 100 contractors across SA that respond to 438,000 calls for roadside assistance each year – with 90,000 of those breakdowns occurring on country roads.
By its very nature, providing roadside assistance brings risk, and whilst RAA patrols conduct a riskassessment at every location they attend, the risk is minimised but rarely eradicated. RAA patrols and members receiving assistance are left exposed to dangers of vehicles passing. Typically these incidents and near-miss events are due to driver inattention.
Following extensive consultations with RAA’s Traffic and Safety Department, RAA Operations and patrols, State Government and the Australian Manufacturers Workers Union, a strategy was designed to educate the community on the dangers faced by roadside workers, inform drivers of their legal responsibilities, and educate motorists on the appropriate action when encountering roadside workers.
The challenges, opportunities, issues and concerns identified through these consultations guided the preparation of this communication strategy, which utilised a mix of communication tactics, and incorporated engagement with a broad range of stakeholder industries. The results indicate achievement of the campaign aims, particularly enhanced understanding amongst motorists about passing roadworkers with care.
In South Australia, legislation allows specific categories of road workers to establish a reduced speed zone (between 25km/h-80km/h), that is enforceable and designed to provide protection to workers and adequate advice to drivers to ensure compliance with the reduced speed limit.
A mandatory 40km/h speed limit also applies when passing a stationary emergency service vehicle with its emergency red and blue lights activated, although this does not require advanced signage or any traffic control system.
However, RAA patrols, contractors and others involved in temporary, short-term roadside works are not covered by this specific legislation, nor do they have legal authority to establish a reduced speed zone under the Australian Road Rules.
RAA patrol vans are fitted with rotating amber lights and strobes designed to provide a high degree of visibility for employees and passing drivers. For patrols working at a breakdown location, a risk assessment is paramount, and they are trained to decide the safest approach to the worksite – whether that be the positioning of the RAA vehicle, deployment of cones in the approach to the hazard, or the towing of the disabled vehicle to a safer location.
Whilst reports of accidents and near-miss events at a roadside breakdown remain minimal, a precampaign review of RAA’s accidents and near-miss events indicated that most were due to passing drivers’ inattention, either by travelling too close to the breakdown site, or some distraction which has resulted in them driving without due care. As excessive speed was not found to be an issue, lobbying for change to existing legislation was discounted because it would not offer enhanced protection, which is why a targeted education campaign was favoured.
Extensive pre-campaign consultation occurred by way of:
- Meetings with AMWU and patrol representatives to determine the concerns of workers and the types of incidents they encounter.
- Meetings with key internal stakeholders, including OH&S experts.
- Discussions with State Government and its SARCOG – Safety at Roadworks Communication Group – to determine if similar issues were being faced by other short-term roadside workers. SARCOG representatives included ETSA, SA Water, Department of Transport, Energy and Infrastructure and the Local Government Association.
Other activity conducted in the research phase included:
- A desktop review of accident/near miss events over the previous five years.
- Web-based scanning to identify any similar education campaigns, tactics and outcomes achieved.
- Consideration of what would be the most effective communication medium mix to reach motorists.
The RAA conducted random checks over a four week period using a handheld radar gun to determine speeds of vehicles passing breakdown locations, and this occurred in all types of traffic and weather. It was found that most drivers reduced speed to a range between 10km/h and 50km/h. However, observations, coupled with patrol feedback flagged drivers were often leaving their decision to change out of a blocked lane very late and vehicles alongside were not allowing other motorists in. These observations reinforced that manner of driving, rather than speed, remained the primary issue of concern.
This campaign involves a number of target publics – all with different yet equally-important requirements, including:
- RAA patrols and contractors – including towing contractors,
- Australian Manufacturing Workers Union,
- RAA Operations and Human Resource Departments – particularly OH&S reps,
- State Government, namely the Office of the Minister for Road Safety,
- SARCOG and its many partner organisations, including Boral Energy, United Water, Local Government Association, SA Water, SafeWork SA, ETSA, Telstra and the Department of Transport,
- RAA members,
- The broader South Australian motoring community; and
- Media – metropolitan 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 significant penetration into the community.
Central to the effectiveness of the campaign were public relations activities, which leveraged off of paid advertising and provided additional opportunities to engage with stakeholders via managed media coverage.
The development of the communication strategy saw the following occur:
- Design of a central campaign image that had application across samotor – the RAA magazine, fact sheets, advertising, billboards and online,
- The production of highly-visible “CAUTION” stickers for RAA patrol vans, and other vulnerable roadside workers, which was risk-assessed by RAA patrols and generated a proposal for a reflective “CAUTION” sticker for the rear tailgate, and an additional sticker placed across the rear bumper,
- Three billboards were identified and booked on high volume traffic routes in the metropolitan area for a two month period,
- Key journalists were identified and teaser stories developed. Talkback radio was identified as an opportunity to engage the motoring public and encourage debate, and producers were provided fact sheets and discussion points, and a subject expert made available,
- Media training was conducted for two RAA patrolmen who had received serious injuries as a result of inattentive driving from passing motorists; and
- Media release and a launch event.
When communicating to the target audiences, messages were designed to balance the safety expectation of road workers and motorists receiving the service – together with their legal compliance requirements – without appearing heavy-handed.
Importantly, the strategy needed to create an opportunity for motorist confusion to be dissipated, and encourage greater empathy of roadside workers and the risks faced by those engaged in these duties.
Key messages for this campaign were:
- Whilst most motorists do the right thing, there are still too many that don’t drive safely past roadside workers.
- Every year roadside workers – including RAA patrols – are involved in a number of accidents or near-misses that could have been avoided if motorists took more care when driving.
- When you are approaching flashing amber lights, take care when passing – one day it could be you stranded on the roadside being helped by an RAA patrol or contractor.
The campaign was formally “launched” on Monday 18 February by way of a media release to all SA media, and this resulted in pick up from radio, TV and print.
A “Breakdown Safety” fact sheet was promoted and uploaded onto the RAA website, designed to complement a four page feature article in the March/April issue of samotor – the RAA magazine.
Concurrently, all RAA patrol vans were badged with highly visible ‘CAUTION’ stickers to act as rolling advertisements, and three billboards were unveiled to reach motorists directly.
Briefings were conducted with WorkSafe SA, SARCOG and the State Government by way of the Office of the Minister for Road Safety, and RAA contacted businesses with vulnerable road workers to highlight the campaign and offered free “caution” stickers for their vehicles plus information packs.
The following table outlines the timing and implementation activities of this campaign:
|Pre-campaign planning||Internal||Draft Communication Strategy for review||PR Manager||7/1/08||Circulated to MTAS, GM Ops and Road Service Manager, and Human Resources.|
|Internal||Design stickers/signage for patrol vehicles||Graphic Designer||7/1/08||Concepts sent to above stakeholders for feedback|
|Internal||Review placement & fitting of proposed signage & undertake any req’d risk assessments||General Manager Operations||25/1/08||Sample rear window signage material obtained by PR – risk assessment to be completed|
|Internal||Finalise strategy draft following consultation||PR Manager to coordinate||25/1/08||Feedback and comments incorporated into final document|
|Internal||Communication campaign approved||PR Manager||28/1/08|
|Internal||Communication pieces prepared for various stakeholders (eg Patrols, Oth. Staff, Media)||PR Manager||28/1/08|
|Internal||Brief Patrol AMWU representatives||Road Service Manager||31/1/08||Verbal briefing required – opportunity for questions|
|External||Liaise with Minister for Road Safety Office re Govt involvement||PR Manager||8/2/08||Determine availability for launch|
|Internal||Office posters and stickers/ signage for patrol vans ordered||Graphic Designer||28/1/08||Allow for 10 day production timeframe|
|Internal||Posters sent to RAA Office and other key locations||PR Coordinator||28/1/08||Could include police stations and other locations|
|Internal||Signage fitted to ad panel on sides of vans||Workshop||16/2/08||Progressive roll out to occur over 10 day period.|
|Campaign Phase||Media||Media release distributed||PR Coordinator||18/2/08||Sent to all metro and country media|
|Public||Media release posted onto breaking news section on RAA website homepage||PR Coordinator||18/2/08||Linked to fact sheet|
|Media||Conduct launch of campaign at suitable location||PR Manager||18/2/08||Coincides with commencement of samotor delivery. RAA patrol van required for event.|
|Public||Fact sheets posted on RAA website||Senior Analyst||18/2/08||To be placed on community section of website.|
|Samotor delivery commences
– includes feature article
|samotor Editor||20/2/08||Delivery concludes no later than 12 March|
The campaign launch saw strong media coverage – with The Advertiser, ABC – metro and Port Pirie, Triple M, SAFM, 5AA and WinTV all running stories that contained key messages.
The four page feature article in the March/April issue of samotor – the RAA magazine – was read by an estimated 729,000 readers. Similarly, the fact sheets loaded onto the RAA website were downloaded by nearly 5,700 users.
Billboards were viewed by thousands of passing vehicles, at three key locations over a two-month period – at South Road, Edwardstown (45,000 viewed to vehicles per day), Henley Beach Road at Brooklyn Park (30,000vpd), and Torrens Road at Ovingham (33,000vpd).
Approximately complimentary 1550 “CAUTION” stickers were supplied to organisations that expressed an interest to be involved – including ten metropolitan and regional councils, ETSA, Northern Area Waste Management and ten other private companies employing roadside workers.
Whilst longer term evaluation is underway to monitor trends of accident and near-miss events, anecdotal evidence received immediately post-campaign from RAA patrols and participant organisations flagged an improvement in driver courtesy when passing breakdown locations, as well as comments of greater understanding by the public about the risks faced.
Evaluation of the communication strategy for this campaign is being undertaken on an ongoing basis through member engagement and other means.
The evaluation methods used for this campaign are identified in the table below:
|PURPOSE OF THIS ACTIVITY||EVALUATION TOOL||EFFECTIVENESS MEASURE|
|Education material||To create awareness and educate motorists||Pre-test of key messages and draft design with motorists before final production||
Positive verbal and written feedback on accuracy of key messages
Positive verbal and written feedback on overall effectiveness
To effect behavioural change
|Collate number of hits on website||Assess timing and source of hits to determine whether other communication activity may have instigated the website ‘enquiry’.|
|Media relations||To create awareness and educate||
Identify media mentions of campaign
Record number of contacts with media regarding campaign
Assess media coverage for accuracy and appropriateness of message
Estimate reach of each message
Estimate AVE for media coverage
|All||Monitor long-term effect on roadside incidents/near-misses||Incident/near-miss statistics||Reduction in reported incidents/near-misses|