Road Safety News
 

Aussie ad highlights parents’ role in shaping next generation of drivers

Thursday 9th April 2015

A thought provoking TV commercial which targets parents of primary school children is the centre piece of a new campaign by the Transport Accident Commission* (TAC) in Australia.

The commercial, titled ‘strings’ highlights the role parents play in shaping the driving behaviour of their children. It shows a young boy attached to puppet strings mimicking the erratic driving behaviour of his father, in a bid to illustrate the power of parental role modelling.

The commercial concludes with the question: “What kind of driver are you raising?”

The advert is based on the premise that children learn more from the behaviour of their parents than people think; and that positive role modelling by parents of children aged 5-12 years can have a huge influence on their child’s future driving behaviour.

TAC used this key finding from a piece of international research to develop the strings campaign as part of its long-term strategy to reduce road casualties among young drivers in their first months of solo driving and beyond.

TAC says “instilling safe driving behaviours and attitudes from a young age is key to achieving this goal”.

Road Safety Scotland has used a similar approach in its ‘Kids in the car’ campaign which was first launched in 2013 and, following positive evaluation, returned for a second airing during summer 2014.

*Transport Accident Commission (TAC)
TAC supports people injured in transport accidents and also actively campaigns to reduce the incidence of road trauma through accident prevention programmes.

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"The idea that there isn’t a causal relationship between behaviour and, equally, both risk and safety strikes me as naive and lacking in merit".

It may strike many as being naive and lacking in merit, but only to those that insist that there is a linear connection between cause and effect. There is no such connection of course, but it is easy to believe there is and that's the main thing.
Duncan MacKillop. No surprise - No accident.

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-4

“They learn that there is a significant difference in behaviour between when things are going well and when things suddenly go wrong. They might be chatting away on the phone one minute without a care in the world and the next they are a picture of concentration on the task in hand. The child eventually realises that it must be something external to their parents that brings about these changes and so they learn to look to the outside to see if they can begin to predict the onset of behaviour change.”

This is as good – if unintended and obtuse – an illustration as one could wish of why in-car distraction and its resultant effect on behaviour is an important issue. It is also a fine example of the circumstances in which behaviour ostensibly unrelated to the driving task (a conversation) and apparently isolated (in-vehicle) is fully externalised and can be the cause of events beyond the vehicle to which the driver must react - and for which therefore the driver can be as much cause as victim.

It reminds of an old phrase – “I’ve never been involved in accident. I’ve seen dozens in my rear view mirror though’’.

And another: “I am the master of my fate; I am the captain of my soul’’. I am responsible for my behaviours and the effects they have – now, tangibly and later, through their influence - on others. At any time, in any one captured moment as a motorist I am both a creator and manager of risk; I am at once threat and victim and conversely my safety is both a product of my behaviours and a gift granted me by the behaviour of others.

The idea that there isn’t a causal relationship between behaviour and, equally, both risk and safety strikes me as naive and lacking in merit.
Jeremy, Devon

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+3

What children actually learn from observing their parents is their parents reactions to the variation in the system that surrounds them at the time as well as the variation itself. It is a common misconception that it is errant 'behaviour' that brings about road transport collisions and so the behaviourists think that by eliminating errant behaviours they will eliminate accidents. What they fail to realise however is that it is their behaviour (reactions to variation and predictions of variation) that actually brings about the vast majority of safety in the system and this is where advertisements like this fall down.

In most cases children will observe their parents managing their way through a sea of variation in order to achieve a successful outcome and although they may shout and swear and break the speed limit the children observe that they don’t always do those things. They observe that what their parents do changes with the circumstances that surround them and this is the lesson they are actually learning. One of the great things they learn is the effect that surprise has on their Mum or Dad and the sudden changes in ‘behaviour’ that it brings about. They learn that there is a significant difference in behaviour between when things are going well and when things suddenly go wrong. They might be chatting away on the phone one minute without a care in the world and the next they are a picture of concentration on the task in hand. The child eventually realises that it must be something external to their parents that brings about these changes and so they learn to look to the outside to see if they can begin to predict the onset of behaviour change.
Duncan MacKillop. No surprise - No accident

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It's an excellent advertisement, and does show that children learn from example. What is missing is all that is learned from peers and the rest of the world around us. Children post 1980 have had ever complex computer technology thrust upon them and it has been absorbed hungrily in the area of games and shoot'em up scenarios, grand theft auto and the like. In my childhood such was obtained from comic strips and Saturday morning pictures. These are the elements that need considering in conjunction with that shown. Perhaps also important, is the way in which parents cross roads with infants and push-chairs on their way to school - that's how Mum did it, so it must be OK for me. We learn from association, not just a curriculum.
Derek Reynolds, Salop.

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Honor,
Do you have case studies where this has worked effectively with teacher feedback that can be provided? It would be good to hear the teacher's side of how effective it was.
Keith

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Keith,
The lesson plans we devised in North Yorkshire meet the curriculum requirements for their subject e.g. science but they do so in a way that also incorporates the road user outcomes as well. There are many areas of overlap or similarity of content whereby a simple adjustment of the lesson is all that is needed to meet both requirements together. It isn't either or. These have been devised by experienced teachers and curriculum advisers so I am confident that they do as I have described - we can achieve both, not one at the expense of the other.
Honor Byford, Chair, Road Safety GB

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+3

Duncan

In anticipation of TAC satisfying Nick’s request for background research you may find the following links helpful at least in appreciating the body of work that is out there on the development of children’s appreciation of risk and ability to cope in a traffic environment.

http://ec.europa.eu/transport/road_safety/specialist/erso/pdf/safety_issues/age_group/01-child_traffic_safety_en.pdf

http://dera.ioe.ac.uk/1415/1/no101roadsafetyreport.pdf

Expecting to find work precisely aligned to “bad parents = bad young drivers = bad accidents” as a pre-requisite of a campaign of this type is unreasonably restrictive. Especially since you are prepared to open up the scope of your own argument to the rather more liberal “understanding how the young brain actually learns the way the world about it works…”. Sometimes we have to derive what we can from work in similar fields or on similar issues within the same field.

As you have opened up the discussion to something as broad as the development of our understanding of how the world works around us you may also like to look into theories surrounding reality as a social construct. Reality is what it is because we engage in a collective understanding and agreement about what it is. Social codes are part of that – including what we collectively decide is inherently right or inherently wrong. One of the most complex parts of growing up, I would suggest, is wrestling with the ambiguities and paradoxes created by the disconnect between what we learn about social wisdom (eg, killing is wrong) and social behaviours (eg fantasising about killing 20 times a night in front of the TV is not wrong). Similarly children have to deal with parents who will instruct about good road behaviours; the importance of preservation of life; a deeply felt belief in the idea that we should do no harm to others etc – and then behave in ways which seem at odds with their instruction and moral counsel.

If we could create an environment in which children both received good counsel about their place in the world and all that entails AND saw that demonstrated through consistent and unambiguous behaviours, would it not follow that they would find it easier to adopt appropriate behaviours themselves? If those behaviours, in this specific context, were those that helped to reduce the level of risk that we both create and experience, then so much the better.
Jeremy, Devon

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+9

Honor,
You say it can be done without taking time from existing core areas of the curriculum.
Then you follow up by stating if the next government adopts these outcomes into the core curriculum.

Clearly if it is not already in the curriculumn then time must be given over to cover new content. Either by removing existing content or adding more time. Having been married to a teacher and Deputy Head for almst 30 years, time will be taken from other areas to cover such subjects.

I am not disputing it is not important.
Keith

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-2

Using the roads and learning how to use our complex transport environment safely are essential life skills – why don’t we teach it just as we teach Geography, Spanish and English?

It is perfectly possible to incorporate road user education within the existing core curriculum without taking time from any other subject: the appropriate outcomes can be achieved through science, geography, maths, language and other lessons with Bikeability in PE.

For more information about how to achieve this, go to
http://www.roadwise.co.uk/children/teachers-area

and scroll down to “Road Safety in the Curriculum”

If the next government adopts these outcomes into the core curriculum, all of our children and young people would receive learn the skills and information they need at every stage of their education, to support and compliment what their parents teach. This is not a cure-all but it would be a foundation education that would underpin other training and better prepare future generations for a lifetime's travelling.
Honor Byford, Chair, Road Safety GB

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Agree with your comments Hugh. However, parents should accept they spend more time with their kids than the teachers do. Simply adding more to the curriculum will reduce other areas of the curriculum.

Nick, perhaps it is simply self reporting questionaires that are being used for evaluation purposes. A bit like the evaluation of UK programmes as an alternative to prosecution.
Keith

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It's not so much 'bad parents' Duncan - that may be too harsh a description - but just bad habits and bad attitudes behind the wheel which can be picked up by their offspring. Conversely, good road sense and road safety educationg given to children at school can in turn be relayed to the parents when in the car.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

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+20

Duncan:

You say: Bad parents = bad young drivers = bad accidents. Of course no such research exists so what we are looking at here is pure guesswork.

But the people at TAC say the campaign "follows international research linking the driving style of parents with that of their children in their first year on their P-plates".

I've asked them to provide a link to the study they refer to so we can see who is right!
Nick Rawlings, editor, Road Safety News

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+18

If 'behaviour' had anything to do with road accidents then perhaps advertisements like this one would be of value.

If the thinking behind the advertisement were correct then there would be a great deal of empirical research in existence that connects people involved in accidents with the driving 'behaviour and attitudes' of their parents. Bad parents = bad young drivers = bad accidents. Of course no such research exists so what we are looking at here is pure guesswork.

This is a great shame because understanding how the young brain actually learns the way the world about it works would lead to a much better understanding of the accident causation process.
Duncan MacKillop. No surprise - No accident.

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-23

This is a welcome and important focus - Road Safety Scotland also addressed this with their recent "Wheels on the bus" ad.

I would also add that children are learning from their parents behaviour from birth (if not before!) not just from the age of 5 years. So how you cross the road, drive and react to other road users will be soaked up by your baby and toddler as they watch and listen to you.
Honor Byford, Chair, Road Safety GB

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+16

And, if I may say so, very much in the spirit of #savekidslives which is highlighting the harm which adults do to children with their design, management and, in this case, use of roads.
Rod King, 20's Plenty for Us

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