Fourth Road Safety Week (5 - 11 April 2004)
The human factor exerts a dominant influence on road safety.The implementation of measures that may effectively influence the behaviour of road users are recognized, therefore, as a vital aim of road safety activities.
Road safety campaigns are an important tool for reaching this aim. They complement, but do not replace, however, regular year-long activities aimed at improving road safety. Safety campaigns, directed at a specific target group of road users and designed to change their behaviour, should involve governmental, municipal and non-governmental institutions and organizations and mass media as widely as possible.
The results of road safety campaigns depend however, first of all, on the manner of communication to road users. Since the target of the campaigns are people or groups of people, and as the characteristics of their behaviour is different from one country to another, Governments have so far followed their own approach in this field. While most of the rules and regulations governing road safety are becoming uniform in all countries due to the increasingly wider application of UN/ECE agreements and conventions, the specific messages addressed to the target group chosen for a campaign may vary from country to country and even within a single country.
Nevertheless, the UN/ECE recommends the following principles which can be applied to road safety campaigns in all countries:
- Communication in road safety should not be used only as an isolated safety measure but should also be combined with other measures, such as legislation, education and enforcement.
- The prime aim of communication should be to motivate the target group to adopt safer behaviour as a matter of habit or, in general, to increase awareness of safety problems. Messages should be designed, therefore, not only to attract attention but also to stress the point that each individual is running dangers and is likely to have an accident, thereby overcoming any psychological resistance and changing it into acceptance.
- The message should be as specific as possible so as to provide as clear guideline for a given situation and it must be seen as true. The informant and the information medium should inspire confidence by their actions and the use of reliable information sources. Effective communication depends also on a reliable, detailed and up-to-date system of statistics.
- Communication should also take into consideration the fact that individuals have the tendency to overestimate the possibility provided by the technical devices of their vehicles and their driving capability and thus feel safer than they really are. The factors necessary for a successful dialogue between traffic experts and road users can be inspired from marketing communication techniques. Appropriate media and advertising forms, most suitable for the target group and the theme chosen, should be selected.