Small children crossing roads and young drivers were the main victims of road traffic accidents in rural Medway, which has 50 per cent more accidents than the national average.
The lack of local buses and trains means Medway’s roads are extremely busy. Previous attempts to address the area’s poor road safety record proved unsuccessful.
Zest was hired to come up with a campaign that encouraged people to change their habits without resorting to lecturing residents.
To increase road safety awareness within the local community and ultimately reduce the disproportionate number of killed or seriously injured drivers and pedestrians (KSIs) in Medway, using a campaign with a community-based approach.
Strategy and Plan
Zest was keen to avoid sounding like a nagging parent and set out to talk to the ‘at risk’ groups – five to 15-year-old pedestrians and young drivers aged 19-29 – in a language they could understand. Apart from SAFE (Stop Accidents For Ever), it organised Sound Generation – the campaign’s most innovative initiative – which had local bands battling it out for the chance to compete at an open-air concert. The winners were given the chance to record their entries, and CDs were distributed within the local community.
Children at schools and colleges were targeted with an art competition called ‘Be Bright, Be Seen’, which had a road safety theme. Young adults visiting the region’s largest nightclub received T-shirts and key rings promoting the message ‘I don’t do quickies’ – suggesting girls didn’t like their boyfriends to be fast drivers.
Zest also used guerrilla tactics, chalking outlines of bodies on roads and pavements at accident blackspots to attract attention and provide a photo opportunity for local media. Meanwhile, Speed Watch – the council’s road safety task force – worked with the regional Safety Camera Partnership to offer speeding drivers the option of
attending a safer driving evening class instead of being fined.
All local media received standard press packs, but BBC South East grabbed the only exclusive by walking to school with a local mum whose daughter had been killed in a road accident. Poster and radio ads branded with the SAFE logo were also used.
Measurement and Evaluation
In total, 65 drivers opted to take part in a safer driving evening class. The campaign was covered by regional BBC and Meridian independent TV, as well as local media including KMFM, BBC Radio Kent and Invicta FM, the Medway Messenger and Medway News. Trade magazine Transportation Professional also covered the story. The Sunday Express picked up on the chalk outline initiative.
KSI data is gathered on a quarterly basis, and Medway’s annual results for 2004 are due to be published in March. However, the latest results show that by the end of September the council had already reduced its KSI rate to below the national average.
Transportation Professional managing editor Jon Masters says he had been looking to base a feature on a local authority that was improving road safety, and that Zest’s press release came through at just the right time.
‘Zest’s communications campaign led me to write a piece looking at the improvements Medway had made in its road network and the safety record,’ he says. ‘Zest put the right message across in a hard-hitting way.’