Opinion

ATA takes the lead on road safety research

Research tells us the most common contributing factors to road crashes are human errors, with most crashes able to be prevented or mitigated.

Take a light vehicle driver cutting in front of a truck as an example. It seems like it should be easy to tell drivers just to stop doing it, but behaviour change relies on the human road user understanding what action is required of them, believing that this action is important and taking personal responsibility for changing the way they drive.

This is no ‘road safety revelation’, as governments and road safety practitioners have been educating the public through mass communication and road user safety programs for many years.

But how do we get cut through, make an impact and get road users to change their actions? Can road safety communication and education campaigns save lives?

The answer is yes.

There is some research evidence that tells us it is possible to influence behaviour through the delivery of well-designed and well-executed campaigns. This includes campaigns such as SafeT360 that are evidence based with a theoretical foundation and targeted to a relevant audience.

There remains however, a worldwide shortage of good quality research into road safety communication and behavioural change projects.

Governments throughout the world spend millions on education and communication campaigns, but those campaigns are rarely evaluated formally. While SafeT360 is an immersive educational initiative, it was also designed to enable research that government and industry can draw on in developing future campaigns.

In early December 2020, the ATA signed a research partnership with the University of Newcastle (Australia) that will take a deep-dive into our SafeT360 education initiative and shine a light on how best to communicate safety messages to young road users.

Led by the University’s School of Psychology, the research project will focus on the ATA’s SafeT360 road safety exhibition, which teaches 16-25 year old road users how to share the road safely with trucks through virtual reality technology and interactive messaging.

When using the road, it is us, as humans, who make the difference between hazard and safety, particularly young road users who are still developing their hazard perception skills. We need to assist them to make good decisions through targeted messaging.

By increasing the knowledge of the road user, we can help the make better decisions that enable them to keep themselves and others safe.

We aim to change the conversation from “will I duck in front of that truck so I can get off quickly at the traffic lights?” to “no, I won’t because I remember the SafeT360 experience teaching me that trucks take a long time to stop and I might be rear-ended”.

SafeT360 is not only a media campaign. Studies show that the effects of mass media campaigns alone are small, especially when compared to the effects of those like SafeT360 that are combined with education and hands-on, interactive experiences.

In the 12 months since SafeT360’s launch, we have reached more than 2 million people digitally and over 1500 in-person. Feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.  Young people are connecting with SafeT360 and absorbing our key safety messages.

24-year-old university graduate Georgia testified that the design, tone, and content of SafeT360 is engaging our target audience. She states that she learned new information, previously unaware of how long it took a truck to stop or where the driver’s blind spots were. She says that it was interesting to see the driver’s perspective via virtual reality videos which increased her understanding of the job that drivers do every day. Georgia’s testimonial is one of many offering the same positive response.

This research project is the trucking industry’s contribution to road safety leadership. It will generate lasting peer-reviewed research that can be used by researchers and road safety practitioners not only in Australia, but around the world.

It will deliver valuable insight into safety initiatives and how organisations can deliver to most effective communications and campaigns possible.

The research will demonstrate that SafeT360 offers clear action and reliable information – leading young people towards good decision-making. Good decision-making that will save lives.

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