The Victorian Transport Accident Commission has launched a campaign through regional newspapers in the hope of achieving a zero road toll, after a four-year partnership to encourage discussion about road safety in rural communities.
Currently residents of regional Victoria are three times more likely to be killed and 40 per cent more likely to be seriously injured in road accidents than other Victorians.
However, Transport Accident Commission media advisor Nick Price said the campaign focuses more on people rather than statistics.
“I think one of the major things about the Towards Zero campaign is that it’s more about people. Everyone’s who’s killed or seriously injured is someone’s father, mother, brother, sister,” he said.
The campaign is supported by a video ad in which Victorian local Francisco Cerros is asked a question: “Last year 249 people died on Victorian roads. What do you think is a more acceptable number?’ His answer was 70. He was then greeted by 70 of his family and friends, and became so moved that he changed his response to zero.
Regional newspapers have partnered with TAC for the past four years, producing editorial content to raise awareness of road safety issues.
This partnership is a commercial arrangement, where an ad is placed in the paper every week, or every couple of weeks, and populated with editorial content.
The coverage of Towards Zero will mostly remain the same, but there will be some aesthetic changes, Mr Price said.
“When you open up a regional newspaper we have partnered with, rather than seeing the ‘Talk the Toll Down’ logo and signage that was in place from 2011-2015, you now see the ‘Towards Zero’ logo,” he said.
Hamish Head, the manager of media and communications for the TAC, says that newspapers are vital to regional communities.
“In regional areas, your newspaper’s a very strong part of the fabric. Everyone seems to tune into what’s going on in the local paper, so it’s just a great way of reaching out to people that we really need to talk to and to get thinking about road safety,” he said.
“Everyone’s got a role to play in reducing road trauma, whether it’s the captain of the local footy team, or the editor of the local newspaper.
“I think newspapers play a really good role in getting that community conversation going, and we’ve found that it’s been really successful getting people in the country areas aware of the issues that are creating that increased level of road trauma in the bush.”
“It’s been great to see the level of enthusiasm that the editors of these papers have shown towards bringing down road trauma in these areas,” he said.
Michael Giles, editor of the South Gippsland Sentinel Times, one of the papers partnering with TAC, said this partnership has made a difference in the Gippsland community.
“I think without a doubt it’s definitely raised personal responsibility on the roads as a major issue in country areas, and I think together as a partnership with the TAC and the government, we really have made a difference as far as getting the message through,” he said.
Newspapers are in a better position to promote social change than other mediums, according to Mr Giles. “One of the very strong points newspapers do have is to keep constantly changing the subject behind the story, so you develop a stronger understanding within a community.”
“Sometimes, if you’ve seen the same message constantly people might get sick of it, but because we’ve been able to change the content of that page each time, it’s a fresh story each week.
“It’s a technique newspapers are able to do that possibly other mediums aren’t able to do.”
Earlier this year, The Newspaper Works launched an Influential by Nature campaign highlighting the success of Pledge for Nate, a campaign that helped reduce the road toll to the lowest since 1962.