When designing a road safety project it is important to do some background research to find out what road safety issues you need to address and what projects are likely to be effective in addressing those issues.
Why Use Evidence?
It enables the project to target funds effectively
Having an understanding of the local road traffic collision statistics will enable funding to be targeted appropriately. There may be particular concerns around particularly at-risk groups, certain roads or junctions, or even certain times of the day.
The project could make roads more dangerous
Some road safety projects may have the opposite effect of what was intended. Instead of making the road safer, they actually increase risk. These effects are unintended; however, using evidence can help to reduce the risk of this occurring.
Some examples of this include:
- Practical pre-driver education courses can lead to an increase in risky attitudes (1) and crash risk (2)
- The use of shock tactics and fear appeals are equally likely, if not even more likely, to create the opposite of their intended effect (3).
The project may have no effect
Other road safety projects do not have any effect – positive or negative. For example, one education programme did not change children's scores on road safety knowledge (4). Another project found that although road safety knowledge had improved, these children did not perform any better in a real traffic situation, than those who had not received road safety lessons (5).
Where to Find Evidence
Casualty data can help you to identify where there is a road safety issue. This may help to identify particular roads, regions or vehicle user groups that may benefit from some form of road safety intervention.
If you work within a local authority then there may be a member of staff who looks after the analysis of local collision data. This person is often located within the Accident Investigation team. Alternatively,
you could analyse government collected statistics yourself or use interactive tools such
as MAST or crashmap.co.uk.
If you work within an organisation where you Manage Occupational Road Risk then review any data that is available internally. This may include accident reports, licence checks or maybe even telematics data.
Research and evaluation reports
Look for research and evaluation reports which have investigated similar road safety projects to your own. Make sure you read these documents with caution – especially if they are not scientific papers.
For example, the project may claim to be a success because it increased driver confidence or maybe reached a set number of people. Remember, however, that neither of these tells
you whether the project was effective. Was driver crash risk reduced? Did attitudes change? Were improvements in behaviour seen?
Sources of research and evaluation reports are:
- Google Scholar – Allows you to search scientific journal articles
- Cochrane Reviews – A collection of scientific review articles which bring together the available evidence on a specific topic
- The Road Safety Observatory – Reviews of the scientific evidence available on specific topics
- Road Safety Knowledge Centre – Evaluation reports submitted from local authorities
- ORSA case studies – case studies on how individual companies have managed their occupational road risk
- SafetyCube DSS - brings together evidence on road accident risk factors and related road safety countermeasures to support evidence based decision making
Unfortunately, relatively little evaluation takes place in road safety. If you find it difficult to find reports that relate to your intervention, then at the very least you should
use behavioural change theories as a basis. Behavioural change theories are created by scientists to provide an understanding of the factors influencing behaviour change.
- Evaluating a Novice Driver and Pre-driver Road Safety Intervention. Glendon, A I, et al. 2014, Accident Analysis and Prevention, pp. 100-110.
- School-based driver education for the prevention of traffic crashes. Roberts, I, Kwan, I and Reviewers, Cochrane Injuries Group Driver Education. 2001, Vol. 3.
- The Psychology of Fear Appeals Re-visited. Elliot, B J. 2003.
- An evaluation of a safety education program for kindergarten and elementary school children. Luria, J W, Smith, G A and Chaprman, J I. 3, s.l. : Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, 2000, Vol. 154.
- Children and road safety: Increasing knowledge does not improve behaviour.Zeedyk, M S, et al. 4, s.l. : British Journal of Educational Psychology, 2001, Vol. 71.