State of the art

A large body of international literature exists that examines the effectiveness of road safety mass media campaigns. To date several reviews and meta-analyses are available. Elliot’s (1) meta-analysis reviewed those evaluations of mass media campaigns targeting key areas of road user behaviour such as drink driving, pedestrian safety and seat-belt usage. It was estimated that on average mass media campaigns will generate a 7.5 percent reduction in the outcome measure of effect. However, when measures of effect relating to awareness of the campaign or campaign message are excluded from the estimation, the average effect of a mass media campaign is estimated to be 6 percent.

In the GADGET project Delhomme et al. (2) reviewed only those evaluations of mass media campaigns that examined the impact of campaigns on crashes. It was estimated that on average a road safety mass media campaign, combined with other measures like enforcement will result in an 8.5 percent reduction in crashes during the operation of the campaign. Following campaign completion, the reduction in crashes is expected to increase on average to 14.8 percent.

Elder et al. (3) conducted a systematic review of the effectiveness of mass media campaigns for reducing alcohol impaired driving and alcohol-related crashes. They found a median decrease in alcohol-related crashes resulting from the campaign of 13 percent. Economic analyses of campaign effects indicated that the societal benefits were greater than the costs.

A key limitation of much of the research according to Delaney et al.(4) is that it does not isolate the effect of mass media campaigns on the relevant measure of effect from the effect of other supporting activities. Nevertheless Delaney et al. conclude it is apparent that the extent to which any individual mass media campaign affects crash frequency is determined by the characteristics of the individual campaign.

In conclusion there is a large body of research on the effect of mass media campaigns available that allows formulating best practices for designing and evaluating campaigns. Several studies have focussed on road crashes as outcome measure but the majority is aiming at measuring perception, acceptation and notoriety of campaigns (cf. the SARTRE project (5)). However, there seems to be an urgent need for evaluation research focussing on isolating the effect of road safety mass media campaigns on the number of road crashes and other outcome measures (for example Road Safety Performance Indicators like seatbelt wearing rates or the number of drink drivers, that are being developed in the EU SafetyNet (6) project) from the effect of other supporting activities like enforcement. Availability of clear scientific information both on the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of the isolated effect of road safety mass media campaigns is a prerequisite to design future campaigns in the most effective and optimal fashion as possible. An evaluation tool aiming at producing such information is lacking while it could in turn lead to another useful supporting tool to design campaigns in the best possible way. CAST will enhance the state of the art through accomplishment of its scientific and technological objectives.

(1) Elliot, B., 1993. Road Safety Mass Media Campaigns. A Meta Analysis. Federal Office of Road Safety, Canberra (CR 118).
(2) Delhomme, P., Vaa, T., Meyer, T., Harland, G., Goldenbeld, C., Järmark, S., Christie, N., Rhenova, V., 2000. Evaluated road safety media campaigns: an overview of 265 evaluated campaigns and some meta-analysis on accidents. GADGET Project, INRETS, France.
(3) Elder, R.W., Shults, R.A., Sleet, D.A., Nichols, J.L., Thompson, R.S., Rajab, W., 2004. Effectiveness of Mass Media Campaigns for Reducing Drinking and Driving and Alcohol-Involved Crashes. A systematic Review. American Journal of Preventive Medicine 27 (1), 57-65.
(4) Delaney, A., Lough, B., Whelan, M., Cameron, M., 2004. A review of mass media campaigns in road safety. Monash University, Accident Research Centre, Victoria, Australia.
(5) SARTRE, 2004. European drivers and road risk. Part 1 Principal analyses. INRETS, Paris.
(6) Vanlaar, W., 2004. Designing the European Road Accident Observatory. 30th International Traffic Record Forum, Nashville, Tennessee, July 25-29.