THE VALUE OF COMMUNICATION
Pneumatici Sotto Controllo
Assogomma and Federpneus recently issued the results of the project “Inverno in Sicurezza”, which monitors the results of roadside checks with a specific focus on tires, alongside the “Pneumatici Sotto Controllo” campaign, which, for the last 15 years, has been committed to public awareness on road safety. The information obtained is particularly important in demonstrating the results reached so far, and stressing how important it is to continue working in this direction
For some time now, seasonal tire replacements have become increasingly common, and winter tires have become a familiar element for all motorists, especially following the 2013 directive on winter road traffic and the subsequent orders issued by local authorities; media, road signs and even word of mouth over the years have built a real common feeling on the subject. Hand in hand with this awareness, the birth of a new consciousness has taken place around the issue of road safety and tires. All this is the result of the different roles played by all the actors involved: from associations to tire manufacturers and retailers, professionals as well as public authorities. For years now, the various Associations of tire manufacturers and dealers have been working hard at raising the awareness of a wide audience of participants, from media to policy makers and the various bodies responsible for issuing orders and regulations, all the way to the end user of the product, who periodically goes to the his trusted dealer for a seasonal tire change.
Though complex and rather well-articulated, the importance of these activities, in conjunction with public authorities, can be viewed as paramount, and as such must be constantly monitored. One of the most important projects, linked to a first protocol agreement ,which Assogomma – Gruppo Produttori Pneumatici – and Federpneus (National Association of tire specialists) have endorsed alongside ANCI and Legautonomie Emilia Romagna in November 2014, is aimed at improving the common awareness of the tire as the first active safety element, as well as facilitating road checks with a view to curbing the number of road accidents in the region. Last winter, the first “Winter Safety” pilot project was launched: perfectly framed in the national road safety plan, which provides for a synergy between public institutions and private actors in promoting initiatives aimed at raising the public’s awareness around the safe and correct use of the road, the project involved the Local Police of 5 provinces within Emilia Romagna (Bologna, Ferrara, Modena, Ravenna and Reggio Emilia), that, during the 2014/2015 winter season, have carried out more than 2,500 inspections and road checks, with a hundred police officers who participated in training courses held in Bologna, Reggio Emilia and Ravenna. The results of these monitoring activities were recently issued, an excellent opportunity to take stock of the situation, as well as providing some food for thought. First, the survey on the general condition of the tires on cars currently in circulation in the territories involved, paints a picture that Assogomma defines as "disheartening in the light of similar activities carried out last year, during the pre-summer period by the traffic police". In fact, 1 out of 5 of all the vehicles monitored had at least one non-compliance related to tires; compared to the previous year, when “only” less than 1 out of 10 cars, or 8,5%, were in the same situation, we can say that non-compliance has more than doubled.
Limited economic resources, neglect and lack of attention to road safety, as well as a restricted number of road checks, are certainly factors that may have negatively affected the situation. One clear pattern, though, is outlined: the older the car the higher the issues related to smooth, damaged or mixed tires. However, one fact must be pointed out; most of these road checks were carried out mainly on one-lane roads, typical of urban areas, where second or even third family cars normally circulate, which are generally older. This means that the figures related to non-compliance must be attributed also to the environment in which the road checks were made, in this case city traffic – where, we do well to remember, most road accidents, including fatal ones, occur.
Overall, road inspections carried out in the five provinces mentioned above detected a 5.6% of visibly damaged tires, compared to the 2.1% recorded in 2014. A deterioration that raises a few concerns, just like the data on cars with non-certified tires, which soared from just over one percentage point to more than 7 percentage points; not to mention the use of mixed tires, 2.7% in 2014, which rose to 9.5% during this year’s checks, and in most cases related to the use of two summer tires on the rear axle and two winter tires on the front axle. This arrangement, as everyone knows, is potentially dangerous, because it gives a misleading driving impression: while on a straight road the car seems to respond well, thanks to the winter tires mounted on the drive axle, when faced with a slippery road or even worse, snow, it is very likely that at the first corner the rear will lose grip, sending the car into a spin even at a very low speed (10-15 km / h). Non-compliance with the registration certificate has also more than doubled, scoring a 4.8% against the 2% recorded during last year’s survey.
However, some positive facts must likewise be highlighted: the territories analyzed showed that motorists have become aware of the importance of winter equipment for their car in order to drive safely in the colder months. In fact, 65% of all inspected vehicles had winter tires, two thirds of which boasted a mountain snowflake pictograph identifying the tires as suitable for severe winter conditions. This figure is even more significant when you consider that most of the municipalities investigated are located just a few meters above sea level.
In short, the data of these monitoring activities under the “Inverno In Sicurezza” project tell us that positive results will come, but only as a the result of a shared commitment at raising an ever greater awareness among motorists. National road safety plans have always emphasized the need for a theoretical-practical cultural growth as an additional tool to facilitate the reduction of road accidents, given that the European Union has set a target of reducing road accidents by 50% by 2020. In this regard, commenting the results of the "Winter safety" project, Fabio Bertolotti, Director of Assogomma, recalls that "for 15 years Assogomma and Federpneus, under the aegis of “Pneumatici Sotto Controllo”, have been engaged in institutional communication campaigns to promote the importance of those few centimeters of rubber between the car and the road, and that especially in winter, when weather conditions make driving critical, become indispensable for safe and efficient road traffic”.
But what about the amount of work behind the project “Pneumatici Sotto Controllo”, now familiar to all the sector’s specialists? Here, too, recent data on the rather wide communication activities shed light on the activities behind the spread of information on road safety and the role played by tires.
15 years ago, when all the promotional activities related to the “Pneumatici Sotto Controllo” project started, very little about tires could be read on the specialized press. A few years later, though, this has turned into a hot topic, and much is being written about it in both the specialized press and the main national newspapers. Nowadays space is being reserved in family periodicals, women magazines and even on television news broadcasts. A clear evidence that through a consistent communication strategy, even at institutional level, the project is reaping the desired result: making it clear that tires and road safety go hand in hand, especially in winter.
As evidence of this, the more than 700 press releases during the first 5 months of 2015 (up by 15,6% over the same period in 2014) illustrate the importance of the work done by Assogomma and Federpneus, most of which related to the winter tests performed in La Thuile, and promoted by both associations to remind and demonstrate the importance of having the proper equipment (see chart 1), but also related to the “Vacanze Sicure” (Safe Holydays) campaign performed by the Traffic Police in collaboration with Assogomma and Federpneus, as well as the seasonal tire change calendar. Overall, 571 press releases relate to events under the aegis of “Pneumatici Sotto Controllo”, or events where the promoters have taken an active part - in 2014 total press releases were only about 200 (see Chart 2).
By the end of 2015 the total press releases linked to the “Pneumatici Sotto Controllo” campaign will likely be in the order of 1,600 articles, with an added value in terms of visibility estimated at more than a half a million Euro, if we had purchased the equivalent space in advertising pages.
While much has already been done, as the figures of the campaign clearly show, the results of the monitoring activities carried out on our roads remind us the importance of pressing on to spread accurate and reliable information on the subject. In other words, to let all motorists know that winter tires must be fitted on all four wheels, not just the front axle!