Safety Communications

RELATED TOPICS: Vision Zero

The goal of most traffic safety campaigns is to educate roadway users to adopt safer behaviors (e.g., driving at a safer speed, yielding to pedestrians, wearing safety equipment, etc.). Analysis of crash data and other safety assessments, observational studies, or community feedback help identify community problems. This information helps inform the design of campaign messages and methods of communication. Most safety problems cannot be addressed by campaigns alone. Ideally, safety campaigns should accompany and bolster infrastructure improvements, policy changes, or enforcement efforts to address safety problems. Research suggests that the most promising way to reach and engage intended audiences is to work with people with social influence in the community (e.g., clergy, hairdressers) to relay simple, practical information.

Campaign messages should be framed to provide a solution to the problem, repeated frequently, and distributed to audiences in culturally appropriate ways. Local partnerships provide expertise and knowledge in framing campaign messages. Traffic safety communication and outreach could take a variety of forms depending on the message and intended audience, including direct contact with community influencers (as mentioned above), traditional mass media, social media, or presentations to community groups, public events, and others.

Resources

Road Safety Campaigns provides an overview of theory-informed road safety campaigns, along with example evaluations of campaigns related to drunk and distracted driving, seatbelt use, speeding, and bicyclists and pedestrians.

National Cooperative Highway Research Program's Report 622, Effectiveness of Behavioral Highway Safety Countermeasures guides state and local transportation officials in selecting and designing traffic safety campaigns that have the greatest potential for the reduction of highway death and injury.

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Examples

Be a PAL – Safe Streets encourages users to safely share the street in Arlington, Virginia and celebrate active transportation by being Predictable Alert and Lawful (PAL).

Watch for Me NC includes media marketing messages, among other strategies, for a statewide pedestrian and bicycle safety program in North Carolina.

Comprehensive Bicycle Infrastructure and Promotion in a Small City documents infrastructure improvements that were paired with an education component in Columbia, Missouri.

Elementary School Crosswalk Enhancement Program documents infrastructure improvements and educational messages focused on reducing vehicle speed and promoting safe pedestrian crossing behaviors in Bellevue, Washington.

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