A RESEARCH PROECT SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILMENT OF THE REQUIREMENT FOR THE AWARD OF MASTER OF ARTS IN COMMUNICATION STUDIES AT THE SCHOOL OF JOURNALISM AND MASS COMMUNICATION
The key objective of this research was to study the meanings of the car wreckage texts displayed on Kenyan roads. This attempt would shed light on the extent to which the meanings the texts influenced their prospective consumers. Since interpretation of artefacts is a human behaviour, the study was guided by descriptive design. This study adopted a qualitative research approach due to its leanings on consumers’ interests, interpretations, perceptions and opinions. Semiotic methods and research tools were used to unravel meanings of the texts and across the communication chain. The study was underpinned on Semiotics and Fear Appeals as the guiding theoretical concepts. The study was conducted in four counties in Kenya – Nairobi, Nakuru, Kisumu and Uasin Gishu. The population included Kenya Traffic Police officers, National Transport and Safety Authority officers, motorists and car wreckage texts. A purposive sampling design was used to get a sample population of three National Transport and Safety Authority officials, five police offices and 54 motorists. Data was collected using photography and interviews over a 12 month period. Images of the car wreck texts were captured on camera in different parts of the country. Interview guides were used to conduct in-depth interviews. The key findings of the study showed that motorists interpreted the texts mostly the preferred position. Fear, scare, shock, surprise, danger, blackspot, police presence, accident, and death were the hegemonic-dominant readings. Further, the study found that the authors embedded strong fear appeal elements in the texts at publication. The results indicated that the texts elicited mostly desirable attitude and behavioural change towards road safety rules and regulations over the short term. As had been envisioned by authors, consumers reacted to the texts by slowing down, driving cautiously, and not using phones while driving. The study concluded that the campaign which targeted speeding, overlapping, drunk driving and usage of mobile phones while driving became weak, meaningless and ineffective due to prolonged exposure, familiarity and vandalism. The study recommends that more car wreckage texts be deployed strategically at identified road accident hotspots and vouches for improved financing, planning, coordination and management of the texts. It also recommends that future deployment of the texts incorporate complimentary strategies to road safety awareness involving publicity, education, information and enforcement to maximise reach among stakeholders and effectiveness among consumers.