‘Blood and guts’ road safety campaigns ‘ill informed’

12.00 | 4 October 2017 | | 4 comments

Research into road safety advertising campaigns has found that drivers are more responsive to the threat of penalties, as opposed to hard-hitting ‘blood and guts’ content.

The study, carried out by researchers in Australia, found that ‘fear-appeal’ campaigns are ‘ill informed’, concluding that in order to best influence behaviour, ‘outcomes related to graphic crashes and deaths should instead be replaced with outcomes related to financial and point penalties’.

The reason for this, according to the study, is that drivers believe they can control whether or not they received a fine for offences committed on the road, but that they have little influence on collisions, perceiving them to be unavoidable.

Dr Rebecca Pedruzzi, a researcher at James Cook University, told Australian media: “People felt like they had a fairly high degree of control over the behaviour they performed on the road, they felt those behaviours could influence whether or not they got a fine for risky driving.

“But what was a little surprising was that people felt their behaviour on the road was not able to influence whether or not they had a crash, and this happened even when we placed the fault squarely on the individual themselves.”

The researchers say road safety advertising in Australia is largely based on the assumption that more fear results in greater persuasion. The research, which featured in the Journal of the Australasian College of Road Safety, set out to explore this assumption.

The study asked 236 people to rate the level of control they had over certain road outcomes – from receiving a fine, to being involved in a car crash.

From one to seven, with one being least amount of control and seven being most, the average driver rated their ability to control fines at a ‘6.0’ and car crashes at a ‘3.6’.

Professor Raphael Grzebieta, who helped publish the study, said: “Everybody thinks they’re a good driver, they find themselves thinking that it (a crash) won’t happen to them.

“However if you apply a speed fine or have some other intervention, [drivers will think] yes it could happen to them, so it has a better registration.”

Dr Pedruzzi added: “What we do know is in order for threat to be effective, people feel they need to be able to do something about the issue.

“There may be circumstances where people may not feel they can control those outcomes so we need to be very careful with our use of fear.

“More research is required into which campaigns work and which ones get the message across… [but] the system is being driven by social media, marketing and public relations.”

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Category: General news.



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    We’ve been using this approach for 20 years.

    Michael McDonnell, Glasgow
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

    Mot mising the point at all. Showing horrific accidents has no effect on now several generations who day to day see far worse horror, blood and gore on TV and cinema. I know from observations and knowledge that some drivers, even Advanced ones, believe that it will never happen to them as they consider that they are [A] good safe drivers as they have never had an accident or [B] suffer from Hubris and are so good a driver that they are above the law and that it obviously doesnt apply to them.

    I can understand if one is involved within driver training to believe, because we want to, that after say a day’s speeding course many drivers will admit that they have learned something new and that they have changed their ways and will never offend again but in reality sometime later they will revert to type and will continue their unlawful ways. So no matter how horrific a film may be that you put in front of them they will not change their mind set and or behaviour and it’s that which is the problem.

    PS In my previous submission I was not in any way condoning or defending unlawful and dangerous driving by anyone at any time. To me that would be abhorrent.

    Bob Craven Lancs
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

    Sorry Bob but I think you’ve rather missed the point.

    People are people the world over, and I don’t think Australians think any differently to us British.

    To use your mobile phone example, pictures of horrific crashes, stating they were caused by mobile phone use, simply amplify the “fact” that some people can’t drive cars and use a mobile phone safely at the same time. However, “superior” drivers (those who think they can safely use phones and drive) are far more likely to reconsider their actions, if they knew there was a good chance of them eventually being caught and getting a large fine, but worse still, losing their licence entitlement (this is so for new drivers in the first two years of obtaining a full licence).

    I work regularly in further education establishments and can tell you that concerns about losing licence entitlement (which not only can restrict young people’s social life, but also job prospects) has a much greater effect than showing them bodybags, and trying to tell them that they will die (which most of them know won’t happen to them).

    Martin, Suffolk
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

    This might apply in Australia but here the latest increases in certain fines including the use of mobile phones has in fact shown the opposite. Drivers are still using them and will be until they are punished with confiscation of the phone and a thousand pound fine. At the moment they can pay any fine on their credit card and as such that is no deterrent at all. Add to that the understanding that they are not likely to be caught by the police and it will remain a bone of contention for many years to come.

    The result of the Australian study is understandable. Drivers believe that they are good drivers and have control of their driving, and that means the decision whether to speed or use mobile phones. They feel that doing these things doesn’t cause them to be bad drivers or indeed any more susceptible to being involved in an accident. Indeed if they were involved in an accident they would more than likely argue that it was someone else’s fault and not their own.

    This happens frequently with tailgating when the driver of the rear vehicle complains that the driver of the forward vehicle gave him no time or distance or chance to stop in.

    Bob Craven Lancs
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

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