National case study: UK Road Safety Week

RSW11Road Safety Week in the UK was set up in 1997 and is organised every November by Brake, the road safety charity. Brake secures corporate sponsorship for the event each year to fund the below activities, offering a range of PR and marketing benefits to sponsors, and some years has also secured a government grant from the UK’s Department for Transport.

The Week follows a different theme every year, with recent themes including ‘Look out for each other’, ‘Tune in to road safety’ and ‘GO 20’. These themes aim to be broad enough to encourage engagement from a wide range of stakeholders, but also enable Brake to communicate specific road safety messages, primarily on drivers’ responsibility, through a media campaign in the Week.

The Week aims to engage a wide range of stakeholders, especially via four main groups: schools; companies; road safety professionals; and community groups. Brake begins marketing involvement in the Week, especially to these key groups, almost as soon as the previous Road Safety Week is over, and marketing continues throughout the year. This marketing directs people to the Road Safety Week UK website, which offers a hub of ideas and information on how they can participate, and encourages them to register using an online form to receive a free electronic ‘action pack’ of resources. Brake carries out this marketing through:

  • Preparing marketing tools such as bulletin articles, branding, images, infographics and adverts, promoting the date of the Week, theme and encouraging registration
  • Issuing promotional emails to contacts who have participated in previous years, and promoting the event heavily in Brake’s bulletins to supporters, volunteers and professional subscribers, and via our social media platforms
  • Issuing marketing press releases to specialist media, such as education and fleet magazines, promoting the theme and registration, and giving examples of how that group could take part
  • Engaging partners by phone and providing marketing tools, asking them to market the event to key groups like teachers, employers and road safety professionals – including teacher associations, education authorities, road safety professional associations, and fleet suppliers
  • Dealing with queries and providing support over the phone to participants, especially those setting up larger scale activities and those who we can work with on our media campaign (see below).

Everyone who registers on the Road Safety Week website (which currently totals about 8,000 per year, and rising) is sent an action pack by email containing ideas, guidance and resources they use to coordinate activities as part of Road Safety Week and engage the public or their staff, students or contacts with the message of the theme, or a road safety issue of their choosing. These packs provide an incentive for people to register for the Week – helping Brake assess the scale of engagement – as well as providing tools and guidance to help participants run effective activities promoting constructive road safety messages. The packs are issued to everyone registered so far in September, and then are sent weekly to new registrants up until the event, to ensure everyone gets their packs in plenty of time before the event. See the 2013 action pack as an example.

While Brake provides guidance and tools to help people get involved, and encourages participants to engage with the theme, it also promotes flexibility and creativity in the way people participate. The Road Safety Week website and action pack emphasise that people can get involved in the Week in ways that are relevant for them, such as by schools campaigning on a local road safety problem, or companies raising awareness among staff about a common cause of their at-work crashes. Equally, while participants can make use of Brake resources, they are also encouraged to create their own, to help show their commitment to road safety and engage with the cause; for example, challenging children, young people (or adults!) to create road safety banners, adverts or videos can help them consider the issues more closely and feel more committed to road safety themselves.

Events and initiatives run by participants in the Week vary enormously, but include:

  • Employers working to promote safe driving among staff through articles in internal bulletins, posters on notice boards (including those provided by Brake), by running briefings, workshops or lunchtime activities on a particular topic or using the Brake Pledge, or by launching new/improved safe driving policies and communicating these to staff
  • Companies promoting Road Safety Week and its campaign messages to the public, by displaying posters and running road safety themed competitions or special offers in branches, including info in their customer magazine and website, and  sponsoring and displaying a giant Road Safety Week banner on their building or in a local town centre (through a scheme offered by Brake)
  • Schools and colleges delivering road safety lessons, assemblies, activities and workshops for students, explaining the risks steps they can take to help keep themselves safe, and engaging them in creative activities to promote road safety (such as banners, posters, films and articles encouraging peers/parents/local drivers to be safer) and engaging parents on the importance of protecting children through newsletters and events
  • Schools and community groups launching local road safety campaigns aiming to promote safer road use (especially driving) across the area and/or achieve a road safety measure by the authorities, such as a lower speed limit, better pavements and paths, or better speed enforcement.
  • Schools, community groups and volunteers running fundraisers for Brake, especially ones that raise awareness too, such as ‘Bright Days’ or sponsored walks or cycles.
  • Police running a ‘week of action’ with heightened enforcement checks that relate to that year’s Road Safety Week theme. In 2013 Brake worked with the Association of Chief Police Officers to promote a week of mobile phone enforcement to police forces across England and Wales, which most took part in.
  • Emergency services, local authorities and other organisations running public events and awareness activities, such as powerful shows for groups of college students run in theatres exploring the consequences of road crashes, screenings of road safety adverts, promotion of road safety messages online, and roadshows in town centres with interactive demonstrations, such as using driving simulators to see the effects of distractions. 
  • Local authority road safety teams stepping up ongoing work in the community to promote road safety, often gaining additional publicity for this work, and teaming up with emergency services, local organisations, and schools and colleges to run larger scale events and activities, such as those outlined above.  

RSW101See examples of Road Safety Week activities educators, companies, community groups, and road safety professionals have organised as part of UK Road Safety Week in the past. Browse for ideas Brake promotes to each of these audiences.

As well as promoting engagement in the Week by others, Brake also delivers a large-scale media campaign during the Week itself at national and regional level, promoting key messages associated with the theme. This tends to focus on a particular aspect of driver behaviour, such as slowing down, not using a mobile phone at the wheel, or not drinking and driving.

To achieve widespread media coverage, Brake usually releases survey results or other data it has obtained (such as on driving offences), including regional breakdowns, that help demonstrate the importance of its messages. Brake also works with bereaved and injured road crash victims across the country who have volunteered to speak out through the media about their experience, to demonstrate the terrible aftermath of road crashes.

In support of the campaign, Brake usually organises around eight regional media launch events, working with local partners in each region to run activities and filming and photo opportunities that help convey the campaign messages.

Brake issues a national press release, a release for each region, and specialist releases. A team of staff that are mostly otherwise employed in other duties are seconded and trained up to issue and intensively ‘sell in’ these releases to media in the weeks running up to the event, and to run the media launch events around the country. At the same time as engaging traditional media, Brake promotes the campaign and encourages public engagement through social media and a range of communications with supporters and stakeholders.

This approach has been highly successful, delivering millions of pounds worth of national and regional media coverage each year. For more detail, read Brake’s guide to publicity and media campaigns, which is based on Brake’s approach and experience of delivering RSW UK.

You can also read the evaluation report of Road Safety Week 2013 for a more detailed breakdown of the event’s reach.

   -   Visit Brake’s Road Safety Week website for more information.
   -   Find out how you can organise a similar event on our governments & NGOs page and our guide to publicity and the media.
   -   Read about other events through our Road Safety Week map.