Killing with kindness?

The PR company for kiddie cereal brand Ready Brek has sent out a press release to raise awareness of road safety for children. The release seems to argue in favour of getting school-kids out of cars and on to bicycles but, instead, it could be argued that its survey, and the text that goes with it, spreads yet more alarm. Coincidentally, in this week's British Medical Journal, there's an editorial warning about PR company 'market surveys': the BMJ authors say such surveys often contradict existing peer-reviewed research but newspapers regurgitate the PR company's 'findings' anyway...
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Here's the Ready Brek press release, produced and disseminated by Biss Lancaster, a top London PR consultancy.

Good in parts, the release is more likely to keep kids in cars than convince parents to let their offspring walk or cycle to school. One of the reasons for this is the stat: "14 231 children killed or injured as pedestrians on the road last year." Most, of course, were injured but the 'killed' bit sticks in the mind...

The release could have been much more positive: an opportunity lost or is all publicity good publicity?

The Ready Break road safety website is much more positive and contains none of the alarmist information in the Biss Lancaster release.

A link to the BMJ editorial slamming PR company concocted research is below the Biss Lancaster release.



Red Light to Road Safety

LONDON: Nearly two thirds of parents are so worried about protection from

abduction that they are not teaching their children basic road safety

according to the research released today. The study has found over 60% of parents who drive their child to school

would allow their children to walk or cycle if they knew they would be

protected from strangers. The more common dangers of being hit by a car or

knocked off a bicycle, however, are less of a priority despite 14, 231 (1)

children being killed or injured as pedestrians on the road last year. Ready Brek surveyed parents and children about improvements they would

like to see local authorities making to their roads. According to the

research conducted as part of Ready Brek's road safety education in primary

schools parents are worried about the conditions of their roads with 77%

considering the roads in their local area to be un-safe for children. Liz Barkwith, Senior Accident Prevention Officer, LARSOA comments, "the

research is valuable feedback from those we are trying to protect. Parents

must realise that the most effective way to raise their child's road safety

awareness is to teach them by example. Children are not able to judge

distance and speed of traffic so it is even more important that they are

taught basic rules to follow for example obeying traffic lights at all times. 13 children get killed or seriously injured on the road each day - it is

essential parents are confident they are ready for the road, my advice is to

plan and practice every day journeys and if children do go on their own

follow and make sure they are acting as you showed." The survey found that 41% of parents who drove to and from school

actually lived less than a mile away. Barkwith comments: "Children travelling

regularly by car don't get the road experience or develop the awareness that

those who walk or cycle do. Parents who live so close to the school grounds

need to make a committed effort to teach their child road skills by not

driving. They would also help reduce congestion."
Interesting survey findings: - Alarmingly, over half of the children surveyed (51%) admitted that they

do not always wear a cycle helmet - 17% of children questioned thought travelling to school by car was the

ideal way to get to school - Three times more children would like to cycle to school than actually

do - Nearly a third of their parents (31%) would be more likely to let their

child cycle if there were sufficient cycle paths in place Ready Brek asked parents for their top ten road improvement suggestions

they would like to see in place: 1 More pedestrian crossings

2 More School Crossing Patrollers / Lollipop Persons / ensure that a lollipop person is on duty at all times

3 More cycle paths / lanes

4 Fewer parked cars and increased car parking restrictions

5= General speed restrictions / limits

5= Fewer cars on the road

7 Increased traffic calming measures: more speed bumps / ramps / cushions / sleeping policeman

8 The lowering of speed limits near schools

9 A greater police presence

10 More speed cameras Notes to editors: (1) www.thinkroadsafety.gov.uk - Research was carried out with a sample of 500 parents with primary

school aged children. - Log on to www.readybrek.co.uk/roadsafety for more road safety

information

- Ready Brek is the kid's hot oat cereal produced by Weetabix Ltd


BMJ LINK:

"PR research is intrinsically flawed because it is completed in a short space of time with no ethical approval nor peer review. Often the PR company has decided on the outcome way before the study begins. Where experts are involved they are unlikely to design or analyse the research, and are often provided with quotes to say about the study by the PR company....Such studies are driven by potential headlines, not a hypothesis or an awareness of existing data. So PR research has outcomes that directly contradict existing evidence, make no reference to it, or replicate it on a far shoddier level (for example a magazine survey of the nation's health may hit the headlines, even though national health data also exists)....Now it is time to extend the debate before the public becomes completely disillusioned with so-called research.

http://bmj.bmjjournals.com/.../530-a

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