Road safety practitioners and academics should come together to develop a standardised version of ‘safe drive, stay alive’ style presentations for delivery across the country.
That was the headline finding following a debate about the topic at the 2018 National Road Safety Conference in Brighton on 28 November.
The debate asked whether ‘Safe Drive, Stay Alive’ (SDSA) style interventions change behaviour and save lives?
The session comprised three brief presentations followed by questions from the audience – and a ‘before and after’ audience poll, in which the results were as follows:
- Pre-debate: Yes: 47% – No: 18% – Not sure: 35%
- Post-debate: Yes: 37% – No: 39% – Not sure: 24%
The presentations were delivered by:
- Sean Bone-Knell, National Fire Chiefs Council lead for road safety
- Dr Jami Blythe, whose Professional Doctorate (DProf) thesis was entitled ‘the role of empathy through storytelling in young driver road safety education’
- Dr Neale Kinnear, principal psychologist at the Transport Research Laboratory
Sean Bone-Knell said there is a place for SDSA, pointing to positive evaluation of the schemes delivered in Surrey and Greater Manchester.
He spoke of ‘incredibly powerful productions’ delivering emotionally charged messages from people with first-hand experience.
However, he acknowledged there is room for improvement and suggested that the next steps for SDSA should include improved coordination and research, and a move towards a single package delivered across the country.
He stressed that the fire service should be seen as a road safety partner, not a competitor
Jami Blythe said storytelling can be used to engage a hard-to-reach audience who are frequently able to relate to this approach – but the use of real stories, rather than fiction, is key to success.
In contrast, Neale Kinnear opened his presentation by saying there is no evidence that these interventions save lives.
He said: “There are numerous examples of well-intended health interventions achieving exactly the opposite of what they aimed to do.
He added that the research tells us this approach is successful at inducing fear (the response we regularly see from SDSA participants), but that this has no consequential effect on behaviour, and that males are most resistant to this type of message.
He argued that ultimately messages of change have to relate to things people feel they have some control of, such as penalty points and fines, but not crashes.
He stressed he was ‘not here to bash these interventions’ but added that ‘a broader perspective’ is required.