Get the message: why it all 'ads' up in critical drive for safer roads
Our Road Safety Authority expert outlines how and why they come up with those advertisements
We are often asked if road safety advertising works? The answer is, yes, absolutely.
The role of road safety advertising is to make unsafe road behaviour socially unacceptable. It changes attitudes and behaviour. It also works hand-in-glove with enforcement. It builds community support and demand for enforcement, so it effectively ploughs the ground for high levels of enforcement.
At the RSA we don't take lightly the duty of care we are tasked with. Our campaigns are designed with strategic rigour, to tackle the specific behaviours that lead to road trauma, are planned with efficiency, and are measured regularly to determine effectiveness and inform future thinking.
Our campaigns are based on detailed analysis of crash data, behaviour reports and observational studies, so we are data/research/psychology-led when developing campaigns.
We focus on communicating single, actionable behaviours to be adopted or changed by road users that are easily understood and feel simple and necessary to address. It is an approach supported by in-depth academic research such as Dr Rachel Carey's study into the impact of threat-based persuasive communications on driver behaviour at the NUI Galway.
We are constantly measuring and evaluating not just what we do, but also what impact our efforts are having in helping reduce road deaths. We undertake several research initiatives across the year, including campaign tracking, observational studies, crash report audits and individual research into high-risk areas.
This approach allows us to state with confidence that our campaigns consistently achieve outstanding levels of awareness, effectiveness and efficacy, and have been instrumental in driving positive changes to behaviours and attitudes.
As an example, since 2000, attitudes to drink driving in Ireland have changed dramatically amongst adults as a result of road safety advertising. Research shows the number of adults who thought it was not safe to consume any alcohol and drive stood at 30pc in 2000.
Following our anti-drink-driving 'Crashed Lives' campaign that was fronted by the Treacy family over the Christmas, the comparable question about attitudes to alcohol consumption and driving was asked among motorists. The results show attitudes to drink driving had shifted significantly.
When asked, 73pc of motorists said it was not safe to drink any alcohol before getting behind the wheel. That's a 43pc shift compared to 2000 and 12pc more support than the public's views when polled in 2015.
Also, there was a drop from 11pc to 6pc compared with 2015 in the number saying it was acceptable to drink two or more drinks.
Yes, a better road network and enforcement are certainly helping to improve road safety, as are many measures introduced over the years. We would never claim our advertising was solely responsible for results. But it is clear to us it is more than merely playing its part.
Our annual survey of attitudes provides compelling evidence that Irish motorists believe the RSA's advertising activity is contributing significantly to improved road safety. It is cited as the most influential factor in making our roads safer.
In 2016, 95pc of adults said road safety advertising was the most influential factor in reducing deaths. A response that far exceeds every other factor including court penalties, road traffic laws, road engineering, Garda enforcement, news coverage, education in schools and even improved car designs and features.
Put simply, Irish people believe in the effectiveness of our advertising just as much as we do, from road users to our judiciary system.