Releases show contrasting approach to road safety statistics

Compare these two press releases:

1.  statement announcing:

The number of fatalities in road accidents fell by 2 per cent in the twelve months ending December 2006 compared with the previous twelve months. Total casualties were down 5 percent, and killed and seriously injured casualties down 2 percent, compared with the previous 12 months.

2. Road safety charity Brake reaction to road casualty statistics published today, showing no drop in fatal crashes

Brake, the national road safety charity, is calling for urgent Government action to reduce the number of people killed and seriously injured in road crashes. Today’s statistics show that in 2006, the number of deaths and serious injuries only decreased by 2% from the previous year and the number of fatal crashes increased marginally. In 2006, 3,150 people were killed and 28,390 were seriously injured, compared to 3,201 deaths and 28,954 serious injuries in 2005. The number of fatal crashes increased from 2,913 in 2005 to 2,920 in 2006.

The first seems like the public information approach to PR whilst the charity is more interpretive and has a more overt agenda.  Is such rhetoric helpful?

“It is a disgrace that there are still nine deaths on our roads every day and alarming that these deaths have not fallen significantly in recent years. Deaths among cyclists are actually on the increase. While there are still speeding drivers and people drunk, drugged or unlicensed behind the wheel, we will continue to see appalling carnage on our roads. The Government must wake up to the urgent need for off-road cycle paths, compulsory 20mph limits around our homes and schools and an increased and on-going crackdown on law-breaking and dangerous drivers.”

I am not arguing against campaigning for road safety – in fact, I feel more needs to be done in several areas, and government does have a major role to play.  But would a balanced and supportive stance by the charity be more effective than what appears to be a hysterical reaction and interpretation of the statistics? 

Published by

Heather Yaxley PhD

Dr. Heather Yaxley is passionate about sustainable careers, reflective practice and professional development. I am a rhizomatic educator, practitioner, consultant, academic and scholar. As a qualified academic, I teach the CIPR professional qualifications with PR Academy and have experience teaching at various Universities. I run the Motor Industry Public Affairs Association (MIPAA) and my own strategic consultancy. I was awarded by PhD researching Career Strategies in Public Relations by Bournemouth University in 2017. I'm a published author, with books, chapters and academic papers to my name.

2 thoughts on “Releases show contrasting approach to road safety statistics”

  1. Before I start, I must declare an interest – I work as a PR officer for a road safety organisation.

    For communications people within road safety organisations, they find themselves in a difficult position. As with many companies, the people behind the press releases can be very passionate people and strongly believe in the cause they are promoting, and that is something I have found to be true within the road safety field, mainly because they are dealing with death on the roads every day. It is also frustrating at times that when there is an average of 8 deaths per day on the roads, there is little mention in the media. On the other hand, when there are 8 people killed in a rail or air crash, it is headline news, calls for a public inquiry, demands for resignations, etc. The reason for this reaction could be because rail and plane crashes are rare, but that doesn’t make the tragic loss of a loved one any easier, whatever the circumstances.

    This is where our skills and experience as PR professionals should come into play, being guided by our heads instead of our hearts. The sentiments expressed by Brake are echoed across the road safety community – we all want to see the number of people being killed come down, but many of us realise that it can’t be done by just one organisation or the Government. It has to be a joint effort between all parties involved in road safety, and the role of PR professionals in this process is vital to ensure everyone is pulling in the right direction, otherwise the message will become disjointed and the public will become confused. While I cannot fault the passion of the Brake spokesperson, their demands of Government are unrealistic. I know for a fact they engage in two-way communications with the Government on a variety of road safety issues, and so I can’t understand why they have taken this stance in their press release. This type of reaction from them will only hinder their ability to practice two-way communication successfully to achieve the one thing we are all striving for – safer roads.

  2. Thank you for your thoughts Richard. I am aware of a lot of really good PR programmes that aim to tackle road safety – including vital programmes in schools and with young people. Passion is vital in PR and a commitment to the cause is to be applauded – but as with most communications or persuasive efforts, bringing your publics along and using positive reinforcement not just criticism goes a long way in helping to achieve goals.

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