This year marked 20 years of UK Road Safety Week. Brake chief executive, Mary Williams, looks back at the success of this year and how social media has changed how we engage people over the years.
Road Safety Week was first launched in the UK 20 years ago. I am proud to say “I was there”. I’m also proud to say that in 2017 the week is still run by the same people – everyone.
Anyone can take part, and so many of us do, with schools, companies, communities, police and so many more people, including people bereaved and injured in road crashes, shouting out to save lives.
Many people recognise that they can shout out loudest in Road Safety Week with the help of social media. Two decades ago that wasn’t possible. In 1997, every effort went into pleading with local television, radio and newspapers to attend our regional launches, often involving us standing, sometimes in the rain, in town squares, fire stations and school playgrounds, you name it, because this was the only way to be heard. We did everything we could think of. We released black balloons to represent the number of people killed. We lay down in the shape of the number of people killed. We held up banners.
Now, local media is just as important, and so are the many Road Safety Week launches still held around the UK. But we also have the tools of facebook, twitter and Instagram to help our cause. This year, victims bereaved and seriously injured by speed (our theme for 2017) selfie-videoed their stories and uploaded them, with thousands of hits and many shares. One story at a time, we are getting the message through to everyone that road deaths and injuries are preventable and unacceptable.
When Brake first invented Road Safety Week back in 1997 we didn’t know what was going to happen. We simply fixed a date and told people it existed. We were amazed at the outpouring of support from that very first year onwards. Thousands of schools, organisations and companies registered to run an activity, and in 2017 it continued, with nearly 9,000 registrations, involving nearly four million people. It’s fantastic that a large part of Road Safety Week is still led by enthusiastic and committed teachers and children in their schools and pre-schools, running a wide range of road safety educational activities in classrooms but also for parents and their wider communities, from assemblies to letters home for parents. It’s also great that companies and their staff get involved too, as well as emergency services, from hospitals, to police and fire officers.
It’s an honour that Brake is still here to support all Road Safety Week events by producing our Road Safety Week “action packs” full of road safety ideas and tools, and once again the internet is our friend, for example enabling us to produce and share video content of our own. This year CBeebies star Maddie Moate teamed up with children from Churchill Gardens Primary Academy to help Brake produce our “speed matters” video for children and families about the dangers of speeding. It was also fantastic that a chief scientist from the UK’s prestigious transport research agency TRL took time out to present a video for us about the science behind speed and why it is so lethal. These tools don’t just help schools during Road Safety Week. They are used year round.
Running a week for road safety isn’t complicated, and we can’t prove that it stops lots of drivers speeding or committing other offences. But everyone at Brake, and everyone who participates, knows it’s important to “save the date”. It helps unite us all. It helps inspire us to keep fighting. It helps inform so many more people about the level of carnage on our roads. And it gives everyone – yes everyone – an opportunity to engage with road safety as a vital charitable cause and to scream out for our vision of no deaths and injuries on roads. Until there are no road casualties on roads there will a Road Safety Week next year. Thank you to everyone who took part in 2017.
Did you take part in Road Safety Week 2017? We'd love to hear what you got up to and your feedback helps us to improve our events and resources in the future. Click here.