By Max Ryan
The Road Safety Authority (RSA) has spent over €5 million on television advertising in the last three years, according to recently released figures.
€1,719,230 has been spent so far this year on several television campaigns dealing with issues such as driver distraction, mobile phone use, tyre safety, speeding, drug driving and cyclist awareness.
According to the State agency’s annual report for 2015, a driver is four times more likely to crash if he or she is texting while behind the wheel, with over 20% of collisions on Irish roads caused by driver distraction.
The same report says that 92% of adults consider road safety television advertisements to be influential in saving lives on the roads. However, the 25% increase in road deaths this year, as reported by thecity.ie earlier this month, belies that statistic. So is this level of spending justified?
Dr Brian Jonah, senior researcher at the Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators, would suggest perhaps not, offering the theory that advertisements alone do not save lives. “The best these campaigns can do is raise awareness, impart knowledge, and change attitudes about the issue.”
Jonah also places responsibility for saving lives on the road at the doorstep of law enforcement, but remains skeptical of the capacity of television campaigns to make a genuine impact.
“Sometimes awareness campaigns have been combined with police enforcement campaigns with some effectiveness noted,” he says. “However I am not aware of any campaign that has been shown to change behaviour let alone reduce road deaths.”
With the RSA’s annual report for 2016 due in the new year, the findings with regards to the impact of the agency’s current costly television campaigns may well come under scrutiny.