The Innovation 50: KiwiRail leaves permanent memorials to the near-miss accidents on its crossings

The Innovation 50: KiwiRail leaves permanent memorials to the near-miss accidents on its crossings

Imagine the scene: you come to a railroad crossing on foot, the lights are flashing, you don’t see a train approaching, so you think about nipping across. But before you do, you see a small, white half-cross planted in the ground with the words ‘In memory of Woman With a Pram’ engraved on it.

Scanning the QR code on the cross, you upload CCTV footage of a woman with a pram at this exact point. She has had the same thought as you, and as she walks across the line, a train grazes her at full speed. It’s a near miss. Very near.

Hundreds of these white half-crosses remain at New Zealand’s pedestrian rail crossings. They are lasting, stark reminders to New Zealanders of the many near-misses that occur when someone thinks the risk of crossing when a train is coming is worth it.

DDB Aotearoa’s ‘Near Miss Memorials’ for Kiwi Rail and TrackSAFE New Zealand was used to mark Rail Safety Week in 2019. It is the reason why KiwiRail has been nominated to the Innovation 50 list.

Tigress Tigress Founder, CEO and Chief Creative Officer Meera Sharath Chandra, says she chose it because, “KiwiRail’s ‘Near Miss Memorials’ initiative captures the catch-your-breath, visceral feeling when you witness a near miss.”

The human story

The extraordinarily visual power of the campaign comes not just from the solemnity of the memorials themselves. The QR code on each cross links to footage of an incident at the site described on the half-cross, so ‘Girl in a Hoodie’ shows CCTV footage of that particular near miss incident.

Half-crosses are used to symbolise how close the incident came to requiring a full memorial.

Concerned about the effects of near misses on its drivers, KiwiRail also wanted an accompanying video for train drivers to tell the public how it affects them.

A driver, for example, says in the film, “It’s something I think about every time I pass that crossing now…it’s probably the closest feeling I’ve ever come to total helplessness. Yeah, there’s nothing I can do.”

The campaign has opened up a dialogue between drivers, who previously found discussing these “heart-in-your-mouth scenarios” taboo subjects.

Meera says, “By creating impactful memorials featuring QR codes, the brand allows people to witness the split-second, shock-and-awe moment that becomes an indelible mental image. A message that comes alive by jolting people into acknowledging the importance of crossing with care.”

The campaign made national primetime TV headlines across New Zealand and the OOH, social and digital campaign generated 4 million impressions. It increased awareness of the risks at rail track crossings by 73% and 84% of people who saw the campaign said they better understood the effect near misses have on train drivers.

The combination of solemn memorial and visceral shock to send a powerful safety message that changes behaviour propels KiwiRail into our Innovation 50 list.