Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Road Safety Briefing Notes - the teams most popular, most recognised safety publication

The Road Safety Briefing Notes or Road Safety Issues Reports as they were initially called were the LTSA’s most popular road safety product – running in their “booklet” form from 2000 through to 2011. That these are still mentioned today in conversations with road safety professionals is testament to the success of the format.

The Briefing Notes were born from two needs:
  1.  A desire to get more easily digested (and brief) statistical material from the 100 page data report available at a media and chief executive level (Dennis Robertson – LTSA Regional Manger Christchurch) and
  2. A need to provide something in more detail (than Dennis’s idea) highlighting key safety issues in a relatively consistent format for each local body in NZ (Glenn Bunting Regional Manger in the Hamilton Office) again in a more easily digested form. 

Glenn says he can clearly remember selling the idea to the other RM’s so I think we can safely give credit for the general idea to the then group of Regional Managers at the LTSA.

The look of the original 2000 Road Safety Issues Reports :

As with the Road Safety Data Reports the process was managed by one of LTSA’s Expert groups, the same one as managed the Data Reports. In 2002 this group was David Croft, Robyn Denton, Colin Goble, David Curson, Jeremy Byfield and Yvonne Warnaar (convenor) with help from Stuart Badger and Alan Dixon.
Chris Hewitt, Geoff Holland and Colin Morrison took over in the Performance information time.  In the Investment team era Colin Morrison carried on as best he could with a much reduced resource. 

Thus the overall concept of the Briefing notes was to provide road safety professionals – and non-professionals with a document that gave between three and five key road safety issues for a particular local body or local government region. Each report was specifically written for the local body in the issues contained but presented in a consistent format nationally.

The general time frame: 
  1. December – February production of MS Publisher "issues" subject templates to be used (giving a consistent national look and feel) - around 15 variants for example speed, bends, alcohol, pedestrians, cyclists, motorcyclists, intersections, weather, driver age etc etc, 
  2. End of March - finalisation of all the previous years CAS data, that is all editing (grid positions added to crashes, all error checks done, all fatal crashes accounted for)
  3. Early April – development of the issues. Initially from the data reports and later using CAS directly and even later confined to NZTA's funding agenda.  
  4. April – June - production with drafts sometimes shared with local body for whom report was being written. Initially this was wholly via hard copy, later by printed and .pdf and towards the end in .pdf with selected recipients receiving hard copy. Even later when produced solely from HQ only in downloadable topic by topic format.
There were some regional variations depending on need – for example in Auckland the Motorway system was treated as a separate entity to prevent the huge number of rear-end crashes unduly colouring what was found in the adjoining local authorities.

Following the initial year 2000 note the format matured and it may have been the involvement or the LTSA’s comms team that got them there, however this marriage proved a frustrating one as I recall with delays, meanings being changed and pedantic arguments over grammar rather than content.

In the end the engineering team divorced Comms and took full ownership with most of us coming to grips with MS Publisher which proved a far more flexible means of production than MS Word - and wasn’t so hard to learn thus destroying the comms teams mystique.

LTSA variant - corporate colours of the time .....

Geoff Holland, Colin Morrison and Chris Hewitt (the LTNZ days) further matured the look of the product and streamlined production. 
There is a lot to be said for taking full responsibility for a product and managing the data, the issues and finally publication. 

In any case the engineering team definitely “owned” its product and took great pride in its popularity with clients.

LTNZ - NZTA Performance Info version and corporate  colours.....

How the issues were derived (prior to their being confined to what the Agency would fund):
  1. Crashes in the area (local, regional or State Highway Region) being examined were compared to the rates found in national data and in peer authorities. This being made possible utilising the two page summary report in CAS. Issues were those crash types or crash causes that appeared to be “over-represented” when compared to peer or national values. Or sometimes just by share number – for example in Auckland intersection crashes would be an issue most years because there are a lot of intersections and by default a lot of crashes.
  2. The Data Reports was also a tool - being a tool used more before the CAS summary report matured
I know when I was looking after the process in the Auckland and Waikato areas in the LTNZ Performance Information days it would take me about a week using CAS to develop the issues to be discussed.

The demise of Doug Millers three Performance Information teams spelt the end of the Briefing notes as they were originally intended.

Colin Morrison struggled on man-alone making them a page-by-page download from the Transport Agency’s web site however even this was terminated when Access and Use took over what remained of the Engineering / CAS team. 
However a "fetch" approach does not always work as well as a "push" approach and I very much doubt that Colins reports reached the same audience - which is a shame considering the massive effort needed.

I have little doubt that these products would be very well received should they ever be revived.

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