When common sense just won't do: Misconceptions about changing the behaviour of road users
Watson, Barry C. (1997) When common sense just won't do: Misconceptions about changing the behaviour of road users. In Bullen, Frank & Troutbeck, Rod (Eds.) The 2nd International Conference on Accident Investigation, Reconstruction, Interpretation and the Law, 20-23 October 1997, Brisbane, Queensland.
This paper examines the paradox that a number of road safety measures popular with the general community have not proven cost-effective when subjected to rigorous evaluation. While examples of this can be found throughout road safety, it is perhaps most pronounced in the case of behavioural approaches. To demonstrate this point, the paper reviews a number of behavioural measures which have widespread community support, but limited road safety effectiveness, including driver training programs, harsher penalties, and the isolated use of mass media road safety campaigns.
Community support for these measures is often linked to their intuitive appeal. From the road users perspective it appears a matter of ‘common sense’ that they are effective. However, on closer inspection, this support is often based on misconceptions about crash causation, road user behaviour or ways of achieving behaviour change.
Two important implications emerge from this review. Firstly, in order to achieve their objectives, road user safety measures need to be based on sound behavioural principles, rather than on ‘common sense’ or intuition. Secondly, road safety agencies need to actively promote the effectiveness of successful road safety measures. This will not only improve support for these measures, but assist in shaping community perceptions about safe behaviour, which may in turn contribute to the acceptance of new approaches.
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