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.”
Gory ads – do they work?
13 January 2015
Category: General news.