NRSC 2019: Focus on behavioural change

10.05 | 13 November 2019 |

The 2019 National Road Safety Conference includes a session on behaviour change and the use of behaviour change techniques in road safety interventions.


  • Focus on behavioural change
  • Click here to see the agenda

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10.40: Professor Paul Norman, Professor of Health Psychology, University of Sheffield

Paul Norman is a professor of health psychology at the University of Sheffield. His research focuses on the application of social cognition models (e.g., theory of planned behaviour, health belief model, protection motivation theory) to the prediction of health behaviour.

Presentation: Changing road safety behaviour: Insights from health psychology

Understanding behaviour:

Many models for people to draw on – COM-B Model (Michie et al., 2011), is popular.

Three main influences – all of which lead to behaviour:

  • Capability
  • Opportunity 
  • Motivation

What are the key barrier to the adoption of road safety behaviours? Are they related to issues RE: capability, opportunity, motivation.

Theory of planned behaviour – been used to understand road safety behaviour and design interventions.

Three important factors:

  • Attitude
  • Subjective norm
  • Perceived behaviour control

Theory of planned behaviour, uses three principles:

  • Behavioural beliefs
  • Normative beliefs
  • Controlled beliefs

Eliciting beliefs – semi-structured interviews with 16 drivers about speeding

Behavioural beliefs. Keeping within the speed limit while driving in built-up areas would:

  • Put pedestrians at risk
  • Reduce the chances of an accident
  • Use less fuel
  • Make it easier to detect hazards

Volitional help sheet:

  • Get people to make links between tempting behaviours and strategies


  • The importance of a behavioural diagnosis to identify the key determinants of the target behaviour

10.20: Tanya Fosdick, Head of Research, Agilysis

Tanya is an experienced researcher who specialises in translating complex evidence into practice. 

With more than a decade of experience in the road safety sector, especially in relation to young drivers and motorcyclists, Tanya seeks to bridge the gap between academia and practitioners to improve the quality of road safety interventions, particularly in the educational arena.

Presentation: Effectiveness of UK road safety behaviour change interventions


  • To identify the effect the Sullman/Fylan work has had on the design and delivery of road safety interventions in the UK over the past two years
  • To report on what proportion of the road safety behaviour change interventions currently being delivered by local practitioners in the UK have been developed with reference to behaviour change theory and/or the Sullman/Fylan work
  • To summarise available evaluations of the effect of interventions (BCT evidence based or otherwise) on road user behaviours
  • To identify the strengths, weakness, opportunities and threats experienced/faced by those seeking to deliver road safety behavioural change interventions
  • To select a number of best practice examples, to act as case studies for inclusion in the final report
  • To provide recommendations for how the sector might best be supported in the future to deliver road safety behavioural change interventions.

A reference group was formed to advise on the direction of the study and its recommendations, and to work together on the next steps.


  • Survey to practitioners
    • Designed to capture information on intervention design process; who involved, theories used and how evaluations are approached
  • Focus groups with practitioners and managers
    • Exploring survey data in more detail
    • SWOT analysis
  • Review of best practice evidence
    • Call for design and evaluation reports
    • Search for best practice

Survey findings:

  • 87 responses, from 78 organisations
  • 55% were from traditional road safety organisations & one-third ADIs
  • Whilst might be an over-representation in this field, there are 40,000 ADIs in the UK (compare to FRS, with 11 respondents & only 53 services)
  • Smaller sample than expected
  • Focused on qualitative responses
  • Owning to the size and composition of sample, difficult to draw robust conclusions & it may not reflect the wider practitioner population

Successes in design:

  • “It contains both quantitative and qualitative methods; this allows us to evaluate the effectiveness of our content, as well as gauging customer satisfaction and identifying new ways of improving our delivery.” (FRS)
  • “Evaluation has evidenced a change in behaviours for many of the sessions, and feedback from teachers observing has been extremely positive” (local authority)
  • “Implementing behaviour change techniques to existing packages – can see deeper commitment to change from audiences and has given learners direction for action.” (road safety partnership)
  • “We’ve had a very positive response from schools about our change in approach to road safety education delivery and content” (local authority)
  • “Success in teaching people to drive safely to varying standards” (ADI)
  • “We have seen a levelling off of road traffic collisions. We are trying new ideas to reduce KSIs further.” (FRS)
  • “How does one determine success? If one is to go off how popular the demand is from schools/colleges, then I would say very successful.” (local authority)

Challenges with design:

  • “Having clearly defined aims and objectives that we can measure. Ensuring that behaviour change is part of the development process.” (road safety partnership)
  • “The organisation I work for is inherently conservative and expects shock tactics to teach the students how to behave. Teaching myself and training colleagues is time-consuming, and overcoming barriers within the organisation is tiresome.” (local authority)
  • “Developing something real that would keep the interest and attention of 12/13-year olds for an hour-long session.” (Police)

Behaviour change and evaluation:

  • Average percentage of interventions designed using behaviour change theories was 32%
  • Most commonly used theories are:
  • Theory of Planned Behaviour
  • Transtheoretical Model of Behaviour Change (PCPAM)
  • Not all responses were recognised behaviour change theories, indicating some limited knowledge
  • Average percentage of interventions evaluated was 45%
  • Overall, an average of 78% of these evaluations were conducted internally


  • It became evident from the survey results that respondents vary in their knowledge and application of behaviour change theories and evaluation in intervention design. 

Focus groups:

  • Three focus group sessions were held at the Royal Automobile Club in August 2019
  • Each session started with SWOT analysis, to explore the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats facing road safety practitioners in relation to road safety educational behaviour change.
  • There were a number of strengths identified in the different groups, related to skills, experience and personalities of those involved in design and delivery

In an ideal world:

  • Guidance and leadership
  • Fewer behaviour change models
  • Designers verses deliverers
  • Clarity at conferences
  • Mentoring
  • Stop reinventing the wheel
  • Licensed products

Best practice examples:

  • Kent County Council
  • Devon County Council and Devon and Somerset FRS
  • Highways England

All three collaborate with academics and experts to embed evidence-led practice into their work

  • Evaluation is key
  • Consistent approaches


  • There have been clear successes in recent years
  • Still some challenges
  • Resources (such as Sullman and Fylan) and Road Safety GB Academy courses are upskilling practitioners and providing practical support
  • The sector is diverse – can’t have a one-size fits all approach
  • Limited qualifications
  • Reluctance to evaluate
  • Good suggestions for the reference group to consider

10.00: Ian Edwards, New View Consultants

Ian Edwards is an independent road safety consultant who has developed and delivers several of Road Safety GB’s courses, including the Foundation and Behavioural Change course.

Ian started his career as a road safety officer in Doncaster before moving to Kirklees, where he was responsible for the delivery of their driver improvement schemes.

Presentation: Who’s Driving You?

The development team


  • An all-Irish charity but this element was for Northern Ireland – Gary Doggett 
  • Grant from the Road Safety Trust

Ian Edwards:

  • Independent consultant
  • Works across the road safety sector 

Professor Robert Isler:

  • Waikato University
  • Research interests include body-mind interactions, eye movement behaviour and behavioural neuroscience, positive psychology and neuroplasticity, emotions, character strengths and resilience

The problem

It is well documented that young novice drivers have a greater risk of crash involvement than many other groups

This is often seen as being the result of a mix between:

  • Inexperience
  • Age

Failures in road safety

Road safety is often criticised for:

  • Failing to be based on any theoretical underpinnings 
  • Not producing sustained benefits
  • Being counter-productive
  • For an overview see McKenna, F. (2010)

Road Safety GB has been at the forefront of improving this situation through the development of their courses and CPD framework 

How we approached the problem

The Behavioural Change Wheel:

  • Understand the behaviour
    • We reviewed the literature 
  • Select what needs to change 
    • Improved levels of understanding of how humans make decisions, improved coping strategies, etc.
  • Identify how this could be achieved 
    • In this case we knew this was going to be a pre-driver educational intervention aimed at 16 to 18 year olds.
  • Identify the Behavioural Change Techniques 
    • Traditionally road safety interventions tends to use only a few!
  • Set aims and objectives
  • Design the intervention 
  • Evaluate and refine

Impulse control – definition

  • Action without forethought or conscious judgment (Moeller, et al., 2001)  
  • Impulse control has been characterised as the ability to offset an immediate reward for a greater reward later (Solnick, et al., 1980)

Understanding the behaviour

Main findings of the literature review:

  • In the Dual-system model of adolescent brain development the area of the brain associated with sensation-seeking outstrips the development of the self-regulatory executive system (Steinberg, 2008; Casey et al., 2011) 
  • This means that decision making is not always a top down process (Glendon, 2011)
  • This disparity between the two systems manifests itself in poor levels of impulse control
  • Previous studies in Estonia had shown success in the area of impulse control (Paaver et al.,2012: Eensoo, et al., 2018) 

What impacts on impulse control?

Impulse control is reduced when: 

  • Impaired
    • Alcohol
    • Drugs
    • Fatigue
  • Peer situations 

Training aims and objectives:

Aim: To reduce inappropriate road safety related impulsive decision-making in the targeted age group

Learning objectives: To increase:

  • Understanding of impulsive decision-making 
  • Understanding of why their age group is prone to impulsive decision-making 
  • Ability to recognise situations when they are likely to engage in unsafe impulsive decision-making 
  • Motivation to develop their ability to control impulsive decision-making 
  • Ability to draw on inner resources for assisting them to reduce impulsive decision-making

Behavioural change techniques:

  • BCT: Problem solving and anticendents 
  • Section(s) where this BCT was used in the Who is Driving You?: Crash analysis – keeping you in the driving seat


  • Completed by the University of Ulster
  • Measures used were:
    • A pre and post – questionnaire 
    • Focus groups with the participants 
    • Interview with the facilitators and teachers 

Quantitative results:

  • Based on the Theory of Planned Behaviour (Fishbein and Ajzen, 1975) 
  • N = 20 
  • There was a statistically significant (p<.05), positive change in intention to make better decisions by planning how to control yourself in difficult situations. 

Quantitative insights:

The “Who is driving you?” intervention was received very positively by the young people in the focus group, teachers, and the facilitators.

Evidence suggested the intervention may not only benefit young people in their thought processes and impulsivity in relation to driving behaviours but that as a further consequence, they potentially improve their decision-making abilities in general and enhance their life skills. 

Evaluation conclusion:

In summary, this was a highly regarded and recommended intervention which appears to deliver the stated aims of helping young people to make better decisions by planning how to control themselves in difficult situations. Evidence presented here shows a measurable improvement in the awareness of issues surrounding impulsive behaviour and road safety in young people. 



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