Running your Road Safety Week: Guidance for governments and NGOs

govpicCould you make a Road Safety Week happen in your country? It can be a relatively low-cost and effective way to get crucial road safety messages out widely to the public, to help save lives on roads.

A Road Safety Week is a campaign event, often run annually, to raise awareness about road safety, promote safe, legal and responsible road use, and ultimately to reduce road casualties. It can be coordinated at national, regional, local or organisational level, but often involves:

  • Encouraging grassroots involvement and action at local level by stakeholders including educators, local authorities, community groups and companies.
  • Offering and promoting resources, information and/or events to support involvement and action by these stakeholders and raise public awareness.
  • Delivering an awareness-raising publicity campaign (read our separate guide on this).

The value of running a Road Safety Week has been recognised by the UN in its Decade of Action for Road Safety: one of the desired outcomes is to increase the number of countries holding Road Safety Weeks.

Why set up a Road Safety Week?

The death and injury toll on roads is an international problem of huge proportions. Globally there are 1.24 million road deaths a year[1] with estimates placing the injury toll between 20 and 50 million. Road deaths are the biggest killer of young people worldwide and the 10th biggest killer of people of all ages [2]. These casualties inflict terrible suffering among bereaved and injured victims, and pose a major economic burden [3].

Most road crashes and casualties are caused by or involve behavioural factors, for example not wearing a seatbelt, speeding or drink-driving. Most casualties can be prevented by people altering their behaviour - especially drivers, who hold a particular responsibility for protecting others around them. This means there is much scope for preventing road casualties by raising awareness of how people can protect themselves and others. Road Safety Weeks can be an effective way to do this and act as a focal point for the communication of road safety messages. It can help transform attitudes, normalise responsible driving, and build cultural disapproval of risk taking.

Road Safety Weeks can support other work to improve road safety, such as changes in laws, enforcement and engineering measures. For example, organisers can work with police to set up and promote a period of heightened traffic enforcement, to get the message out that illegal driving won’t be tolerated. Equally, a Road Safety Week could be used to promote a change in the law, for example a lower drink drive limit, by conveying the message that even small amounts of alcohol can be deadly when driving.

As well as promoting safer road use, Road Safety Weeks can yield wider social benefits by encouraging and supporting grassroots educational and campaigning activities. A bottom-up approach allows communities to take ownership over road safety in their local area and encourages an active and cohesive community. Furthermore, if roads are safer it often enables people to walk and cycle more, which has health and social benefits.

Organising a Road Safety Week

STEP ONE: Identify target audiences

Try to engage as many people as possible, but take into account the resources you have at your disposal and plan accordingly. Prioritise reaching and engaging people who are most able to impact on road safety, such as drivers and young people. Consider if you:

  • Can coordinate the Week at national or regional level - if starting out you may find it helpful to start at regional level and build up, but the wider the reach the better
  • Have a particular need to target a specific age group or demographic, such as to address a pressing road safety problem in your country
  • Can make use of your existing networks and communication channels to promote involvement in the Week
  • Will be able to work with national or local partners, such as membership organisations, employers, national/regional/local authorities and schools, to help engage your target audience and cascade road safety messages.

STEP TWO: Choose a date and theme

Ensure the date doesn’t clash with any other large scale events or national holidays and fits with the calendars of your target audience. For example if you aim to involve schools, as many Road Safety Weeks do, it should not be during or immediately after vacations or busy periods in the run up to exams.

Choosing a theme can give your event focus and can act as a suggested starting point for people to get involved. If your country has a particular road safety problem this could be the theme. For example the first Road Safety Week in Canada focused on encouraging people to wear seatbelts because of the low rate of seatbelt use at the time.

It's a good idea to choose a theme with wide relevance and appeal, to encourage involvement and interest in the Week, but where you can still focus in on specific messages. For example, you might have a theme that is about creating safer streets for people on foot and bike, but where you focus in on a call for drivers to stay under speed limits to protect people. For ideas, browse the themes and messages Brake has used for Road Safety Weeks in the UK in 2014, 2013, 2012 and 2011. See our guide on publicity and the media for more advice on developing and communicating constructive road safety messages.

You could also make use of Brake's Pledge, or choose one of the Pledge topics, as your theme. It includes six key promises people can make to protect themselves and others, each of which is ideal for using through an awareness-raising campaign. Each promise includes something drivers can do and something everyone can do, and is written in a clear and concise way that can be replicated easily for media and publicity purposes.

When promoting involvement in your Week to schools and local groups, it's a good idea to say that they don’t have to stick to your theme if they have another road safety issue they wish to address locally.

STEP THREE: Gather support

Research and contact organisations that can help you deliver the campaign and engage your target audience, especially by assisting with marketing and communications around the event, and delivery of activities within communities. This might include public bodies such as traffic police and national and local transport agencies, other organisations with an interest in road safety such as NGOs, emergency services, health bodies, and private companies like motor insurers and fleet operators. It might also include organisations with a particular interest in your chosen theme, such as running, walking and cycling groups if you're focusing on achieving safer streets for pedestrians and cyclists.

You should also draw up a budget for delivering your Week and secure funding for this. If you cannot fund your Road Safety Week internally, or you wish to run the event on a bigger scale than you can fund, consider securing corporate sponsors. Companies with an interest in road safety like insurers, haulage operators, public transport companies, and others with staff who drive for work, may be keen to be associated with an event that can help them publically demonstrate their commitment to road safety. You can offer PR and marketing benefits in return for funding, such as sponsors' branding on your Road Safety Week materials and at media events, and sponsors named in press releases. You will need to keep them informed about the campaign and get their approval of branded materials. Sponsors may also be able to assist the delivery of the campaign, by publicising messages to staff and customers, and deploying staff to run local community activities. 

STEP FOUR: Develop resources

Producing and disseminating road safety resources can aid engagement in your Week at grassroots level, by providing participants with useful tools, as well as getting your campaign messages out. Your resources should be appropriate for the stakeholder group they are aimed at – resources for school groups will be very different to those for fleet professionals – and fit with your theme. They should promote clear and specific road safety messages, and create a sense of the importance of these. For more advice on creating materials to promote your campaign messages see our publicity guide, or for ready-made downloadable tools and resources on a range of road safety topics see our tools and resources section.

You could also consider producing some generic Road Safety Week posters, web banners and flyers to promote your event in advance, and for use by participants to show they're getting involved. See our Road Safety Week promotional materials for ideas, and for ready-made materials you can use.

It is also useful to set up an online presence for your Road Safety Week. This can be a whole website, a web page on your site, or a Facebook page. An online presence provides an accessible source of information for participants as well as easy access to resources. See Brake's Road Safety Week UK website as an example. You can refer to our guidance for companies, schools and colleges, and local agencies and community groups for ideas on how each of these groups can get involved, which could be included on your site or web page.

STEP FIVE: Market and promote to potential participants

rswpic2Identify the groups and organisations you want to participate in Road Safety Week, for example schools, emergency services, local authorities and community groups. Communicate clearly to these groups why it is beneficial to them that they participate and how they can do so. Contact them with plenty of notice to give them time to plan their involvement. Promote your Road Safety Week through the organisations suggested in step three above for further reach.

Marketing can be done through: email marketing to existing contacts and via partners; advertising on your own website and on partner sites; using social media channels; and sending press releases to relevant media.

It can be a good idea to set up a registration system to enable monitoring of how many people get involved and distribution of information and resources to participants. See Brake’s registration form for Road Safety Week UK as an example. Coordinate with the various stakeholders throughout the Week to ensure they have the tools and resources they require.

STEP SIX: Promote and gain coverage

Gaining publicity and media coverage in the run-up, during and after your Road Safety Week can help you reach more people with important road safety messages and boost involvement in the event. Plan in advance what messages you want to get across (linked to your theme if you have one) to encourage people to use roads safely. Consider how you can use statistics, images, case studies and film clips to get these messages across powerfully.

You can then work to engage TV, radio and newspapers (at national and regional level) by issuing press releases and making contact with journalists. You can also promote your messages through social media, advertising and other communications channels open to you.

See Brake’s guide to publicity and the media.

STEP SEVEN: Evaluate

Evaluating your Week will give you an indication of the reach and success of your event, and what worked well and not so well, to help you plan for future years and achieve ongoing funding. It's therefore a good idea to record your output as you go along, and build in evaluation methods to the way you run your Week, ensuring you can measure success against your chosen aims.

In the run up to the event it is useful to record marketing activity to help you gauge what worked well and better target your marketing for future Weeks.

Record levels of involvement, such as the number of registrations and the number of activities you know were run by participants (and different types of activities). See Brake's UK registration form for an example of how to record this. You can also gather feedback from participants, by emailing a simple feedback survey to everyone who registered, asking them to tell you how their activities went, how many people were involved, and to rate information and resources you've provided, and make suggestions for future Weeks. You may be able to use a free online tool to do this like surveymonkey

It's also helpful if you can evaluate publicity gained - see our publicity guide for advice on this.

See Brake’s Road Safety Week UK 2013 evaluation for more examples of measures of success. 

STEP EIGHT: Communicate outcomes

Once you've carried out an evaluation of your event, communicate your successes - including metrics and examples of how people got involved. You could present this in an evaluation report (see Brake's for example), on a dedicated web page, and/or as an infographic, and then share this with participants, partners, sponsors, and organisations you're hoping might get involved next year.

This demonstrates to everyone involved that their involvement is crucial to the success of Road Safety Week. It also shows them how other groups participated and contributed and can give them ideas for the future. 

Tell Brake how it went. We are keen to find out about Road Safety Weeks around the world and to share the experiences and ideas of different Road Safety Week organisers and participants. Tell us about your Week here.

STEP NINE: Plan for next year

This can begin as soon as your Road Safety Week has ended – or even before. Use feedback and other evaluation data you have collected to consider future improvements. Select your date and theme for next year as soon as possible and inform previous participants so it goes in their calendars early. Get commitment from stakeholders, supporters and participants for their involvement next year and start marketing again.

   -   Browse case studies of existing road safety events for ideas
   -   Get tools and resources for your Road Safety Week
   -   Contact us and tell us about your event
   -   Download this guidance document as a PDF

[1] Global Status Report on Road Safety, 2013, World Health Organisation
[3] Road traffic injuries fact sheet, 2013, World Health Organisation