A question about the effectiveness of ‘Safe Drive, Stay Alive’ and other similar live productions sparked a passionate debate at the 2017 National Road Safety Conference.
The question, posed during the conference Question Time session by Rob Tillier, owner of Accelerate Driver Training, was as follows: “I have heard from many experts that the shock tactics employed by Safe Drive, Stay Alive style events are largely ineffective and can even be damaging. Why are emergency services, supported by many road safety organisations, conducting such events when the ineffectiveness is clear and little/no evaluation has been undertaken to prove otherwise?”
The first panelist to respond was Matt Staton who heads up Cambridgeshire County Council’s road safety team. Speaking as both a road safety practitioner and someone involved in road safety research, for him the “key element here is around evidence-based planning and evaluation”.
He asked, “where is the evidence base telling us that we should be delivering these programmes”, and spoke of “clear evidence there that there is a possibility of negative, unintended consequences”.
Matt Staton added: “Is anybody in the evaluations they are doing for these programmes, trying to measure whether they are seeing these unintended consequences of increased confidence in young male drivers…and where, if we upset people in the audience, that is seen as potentially a positive thing – I would argue that is completely the wrong approach.
“If we as practitioners in any other subject area walked into a school or college and made a percentage of the audience cry, or leave the room because they were too upset, we would not be asked back. So why is that approach seen to be acceptable in road safety?”
Shaun Helman, head of transport psychology at TRL, added: “The question was why are people still delivering it, and I’d like to quote my good friend Simon Christmas on this – he told me recently something that stuck with me: ‘History eats logic for breakfast’. That I think it why it is still happening.
“As a road safety community, we need to be better at telling people what works and what doesn’t and getting the information out there so that people can make informed choices to what they deliver.
“So anybody who is delivering it now, stop and re-evaluate what you are doing. That’s me telling people in this room – and then could you go and tell everyone else please.”
First to respond from the audience was John Siddle from the Lincolnshire Road Safety Partnership who talked about his partnership’s programme called ‘Too Fast, Too Soon’.
He told delegates that while it did start off as ‘some blood and gore’ it has now been turned into a theatre production.
He said: “It’s not there to frighten them, scare them or upset them, it’s to dig into their emotions because they are 17 years old and they are emotional.
“We look at the effects on family, the risks, all those sorts of things. I’m afraid you cannot just say stop scaring them, because we’re not. We agree that some are, but not everybody, they’re all similar programmes, but they’re not the same.”
Simon Rewell, road safety manager for Insure The Box, said his company is ‘proud sponsors of Learn 2 Live’, which educates around 15,000 young people every year.
He said: “I think a lot of the concerns being raised here are very true. I have had the privilege of actually travelling around the country and listening to – and seeing demonstrated – a number of these types of initiatives.
“Some of them I wouldn’t want to see or expose anybody to because sadly there does still appear to be, for some, the tendency to want to scare and the use blood, guts and gore.
“However, some such as Learn 2 Live, have now taken a far more balanced approach and rather than taking that kind of extreme view, work on the basis of what is genuine reality, and actually what will motivate people to change their thinking.
“What is more important is that these shouldn’t be just one hit wonders that youngsters attend on just that one day a year and it’s finished. The key to these events is to have it continually brought up throughout the academic year, again with engagement from the local authorities. That means it is not just an emotional peak of one event, it is a thought process that young people maintain.”
John Siddle contributed again, saying that “through evaluation we have had a 70% reduction in 17-24 year olds that come to harm on our roads.”
Shaun Helman challenged that claim, saying he would “want to see that data, I would want to see it peer reviewed, I want to see it properly designed and published and open to scrutiny. I don’t believe there is very much in road safety that is”.
Listen to the whole ‘Safe Drive, Stay Alive’ debate which starts at 32 mins and 19 secs into the Question Time video above.
Category: Young drivers.