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Step 7: Incorporate Personal Contact with Drivers

How can you incorporate personal contact into your campaign?

Studies on idling reduction campaigns have shown that reminders alone (e.g. metal sign or brochure) are much less effective in changing behaviour without personal contact with your target audience.  A successful approach used in campaigns across the country is the use of Idle-Free Ambassadors (staff or volunteers) engaging drivers in short conversations at an “idling hotspot” – also called “Personal Interventions”.

Intervention activities encourage motorists to make a series of progressive commitments to change their idling habits.  Interventions can include the following steps, conducted by the Idle-Free Ambassador:

  • Approach waiting driver, introduce themselves and ask to speak to the driver about idling;
  • Explain the benefits of not idling and provide driver with an information card or brochure;
  • Ask the driver to make a commitment to not idle by posting a window decal or signing a pledge card;
  • Offer to put the window decal on the driver’s window (increases chances that the driver will agree); and
  • Collect information on a template data form (e.g. gender of driver, willingness to talk about idling, willingness to take information card.  See Step 7 Planning Worksheet and Resources).

The following steps can help you incorporate personal interventions into your campaign:

  • Obtain approval from site supervisors – if necessary, at the location where you will be conducting interventions (e.g. at transit hubs, at schools, etc.).
  • Carefully select location(s) – for example, your “idling hotspots” identified in Step 1, or a manageable subset of your target locations.  Within each, select an area where:
    • Idling vehicles are concentrated;
    • Drivers represent a captive audience (e.g. are waiting for a sufficient amount of time to allow for a conversation); and,
    • Volunteers/staff can easily and safely approach drivers who are waiting and/or idling.
  • Confirm location(s) with a site visit – visit the sites where interventions will be occurring to see and confirm that they fit the criteria outlined above.
  • Select season to conduct interventions – personal interventions are most effective in the warmer months – drivers are most willing to interact with ambassadors when it is warm outside and the amount of available daylight is greatest making it easier and safer for ambassadors.
  • Choose time of day to conduct interventions – this ideally will be during peak travel times.  For situations involving regular commuters (e.g. school pick up zones, transit hubs) it is more effective to conduct interventions in the afternoon – in the morning drivers are too pressed for time to talk to volunteers/staff.
  • Decide on the number of days to conduct interventions – choose a time period that works within your resources and does not conflict with other events/campaigns in your community.  For example, the GO Transit Idling Reduction component of the City of Mississauga’s idling reduction campaign conducted interventions over a one-week time period in the fall during the afternoon commute. 
  • Recruit personnel – decide if you will be using staff, volunteers or students, and recruit sufficient number of personnel to have at least two individuals at each of your intervention locations for the length of time of your interventions.  Having volunteers/staff in pairs increases effectiveness at each site, and ensures their comfort and safety.
  • Train personnel – meet with the group of staff/volunteers to go over the script, information cards, commitment requests, and safety tips.  Ensure Idle-Free Ambassadors are knowledgeable about all the campaign initiatives – drivers may have questions or comments about idling in other areas.
  • Collect necessary material – ensure all the material that volunteers/staff conducting interventions will need is ready to go – e.g. T-shirts that clearly identify them as part of the Idle-Free campaign, clipboards and data collection sheets, information cards, and window decals.
  • Implement interventions – run the interventions at your chosen time and dates.  Ensure all volunteers/staff are clearly identified with graphic idling reduction T-shirts.

The following case study illustrates one approach to personal interventions in an idling reduction campaign – that of using volunteer youth ambassadors to “spread the message”.  This and other case studies showcased in this guide can help generate ideas as you work through Step 7 (Incorporate Personal Contact with Drivers) of your campaign.

SIMPLE Driver Stewardship Program
Target Audience/Location: Young Drivers, General Public in Schools and Community
Intervention Method: Volunteer Youth Ambassadors
Through the SIMPLE Driver Stewardship Program, an initiative of the New Brunswick Lung Association (NBLA), youth ambassadors from across the province encouraged their peers to rethink the way they drive. SIMPLE is an acronym used to identify six key actions to make transportation more efficient.

Speed Limit – slow down!
Idling – reduce excessive idling
Match vehicle to need – try to buy the most fuel efficient vehicle that meets your needs and budget
Pressure – measure your tire pressure once a month
Leave your car at home – consider alternatives to driving
Engine tune-up – get regular tune-ups

Under the program, volunteer youth ambassadors are recruited from high schools to act as driving stewards. Each ambassador receives a day of SIMPLE training, after which they go back to their schools and communities to spread the message to other young drivers. Ambassadors are expected to carry out 4 to 5 activities or presentations and aim to get at least 100 pledge forms signed that commit people to one or more of the six SIMPLE actions. Although most ambassadors communicate to classmates within their own schools, some have managed to reach out to community events, parent-teacher nights, driver trainer programs and other schools. During the 2008-2009 school year, ambassadors secured an impressive 4,800 pledges across the province. The NBLA conducted follow-up calls and emails to pledges to see if they were carrying out the action(s) to which they committed. Although the response rate varied, it was favourable, with 100% of respondents noting that they were doing at least one of the six actions, and 82% doing three or more.
As an extension of the SIMPLE program, NBLA staff and youth volunteers also hosted public clinics. The “SIMPLE Clinics” were held at various public locations such as malls, grocery stores, Canadian Tire locations and Government of New Brunswick service centres.  Through the NBLA booths, members of the public were introduced to the SIMPLE steps and the idling reduction message.

Find out more about the SIMPLE program on the New Brunswick Lung Association website.

Step 7 Planning Worksheet and Resources

Intervention Data Collection Form [PDF 88 KB] [DOC 56 KB]

Sample Long Intervention Script [PDF 17 KB] [DOC 26 KB]

Step 7 Intervention Design Planning Worksheet [PDF 22 KB] [DOC 36 KB]

Sample “Idle-Free” Ambassador Script (Short)

“Hi, my name is _______ and we're here today talking with drivers about how idling is bad for our health, environment, and your pocketbook. If you’re interested in why and how to reduce idling, I have a card I can give you – would you mind taking one?

[Ambassador can talk through the points on the card as time allows]

The key thing to remember is to turn your engine off when parked for more than 10 seconds.

We're also asking people to make a commitment to turn off their engines when they're parked and waiting in their vehicles by placing this removable decal in their windows. The sticker is a reminder to you to turn your engine off, and also tells others of your commitment to reduce engine idling – will you take one?

[Offer to help affix the decal.]

Thank you very much for your time!

Sample Intervention Script (Long Format) (from City of Mississauga school based idling reduction program, 2002)

  • Hi, my name is ____________ and I’m working with _______________ on a project to reduce vehicle engine idling. Would you have 30 seconds for me to share some information on the benefits of reducing idling?

If no – thank the guest and discontinue.

If yes – continue...

[Follow the script while holding the information card – this reminds you of the issues to talk about (saving money, breathing easier, the environment). It also makes it easier to offer them the card when you’re done talking.]

  • When you don’t idle your engine, you’ll save money by using less gas – well over $60 per year, depending on prices.
  • Also, as you know, engine exhaust is unhealthy to breathe. It is especially unhealthy for children because they breathe faster than adults and are closer to the tailpipe. By turning your engine off, you and others around you won’t have to breathe in fumes from a vehicle that is going nowhere.
  • And exhaust also affects air quality and contributes to smog and climate change. By not idling your engine you’ll help to reduce these problems.
  • This card explains how turning off your engine can save you money, help you breather easier and spare the air. Would you like one?
  • We’re also asking people to make a commitment to turn off their engine when they’re parked for more than 10 seconds by placing this decal in their window. It acts as a reminder to you to turn your engine off, and also tells others of your commitment. Would you be willing to make this commitment now by putting the decal on your windshield?

[Peel decal off backing and show driver and offer to put on window for driver]

  • Thank you and have a nice day!

Intervention Design Planning Worksheet

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