Two fire and rescue road safety professionals have mounted a staunch defence of Safe Drive, Stay Alive and similar interventions, following comments made by panelists during ‘Question Time’ at the 2017 National Road Safety Conference earlier this month.
Question Time panelist Matt Staton, who heads up Cambridgeshire County Council’s road safety team, said that scaring young people is “completely the wrong approach”, adding that there is a “possibility of negative, unintended consequences”.
Shaun Helman, head of transport psychology at TRL, took a similar stance, calling on those delivering this style of intervention to “stop and re-evaluate what you are doing”.
However, Lesley Allen from Greater Manchester Fire & Rescue Service and Mark Taylor from Surrey Fire & Rescue Service, have taken issue with the panelists’ comments.
Lesley Allen and Mark Taylor are responsible for delivering Safe Drive Stay Alive (SDSA) in their respective areas, and work collaboratively to reach around 20,000 young drivers and passengers annually. Both have contributed to the discussion thread which has followed the news item covering the Question Time session at National Conference.
Lesley Allen is the project lead for the multi-agency Greater Manchester Safe Drive Stay Alive project (featured image), which is now in its’ fourth year. She said her team “do not use shock tactics” but rather “emotionally engaging stories that young people can relate to”.
She said she is “immensely proud of our achievements through developing and delivering Safe Drive Stay Alive”, stating that without the scheme 30,000 young people “would not have had a road safety input”.
Mark Taylor was a member of the team that established Safe Drive, Stay Alive in Surrey in 2005.
He says Surrey SDSA “aims to positively influence the attitudes and driving behaviours of young people through helping them to make informed choices” which are “based on the emotional, moral, physical and legal realities and impacts of road traffic collisions”.
Mark adds that the scheme aims to achieve this “without lecturing, the use of sensationalism, shock or gore”.
In March 2015 the partners jointly commissioned an independent evaluation of the November 2015/16 SDSA performances in both areas.
Lesley Allen says the evaluation, undertaken by Road Safety Analysis, “showed where we were having a lasting positive influence on the attitudes and intended behaviours of young drivers and passengers, and also where we needed to focus our efforts on more”.
She added that the both parties “have learned from and further developed our schemes through reflecting on this independent evaluation”.
Lesley cites examples including the introduction of “more relatable consequences for young people into our stories, and developing follow-up resources to encourage young people to explore the issues raised at the performance for them as individuals and with their friends”.
Mark Taylor said the evaluation recommendations have been “a focus for development”, and acknowledged that the performances alone “cannot address all the issues around safe driving of young drivers, their attitudes and those of their passengers”.
However, he adds that the “performances are, firstly, doing no harm and, secondly, there is statistically significant evidence that they are having some positive impact – up to 12 months post attendance”.
The ‘Safe Drive, Stay Alive’ debate starts at 32 mins 19 secs into the Question Time video.