Posted by Behavioural Insights Unit on Monday August 12th, 2013

Issue: Speeding is the biggest single road safety issue on NSW roads, with almost half of all fatal accidents speed-related. This number continues to grow.

Campaign: ‘Don’t Rush’ is an integrated marketing communications campaign featuring a surgeon and crash survivors speaking about the impacts of speeding-related accidents.

Behaviour:The advertisements make use of an expert messenger for the campaign, as well as emotionally salient information in the form of survivors of life-changing and tragic speeding accidents

Outcome: Respondents reported that they had taken more care in sticking to the speed limit, and reduced their frequency of speeding.

The Policy Issue

Speeding remains the biggest single road safety issue on NSW roads. At least 46% of all fatalities in NSW in 2009 were speed-related. This rate is increasing, up 48% since 2007.

Another significant contributor to the road toll is driver fatigue. In NSW, 81% of drivers involved in fatigue-related fatal crashes are male, of whom 61% are aged 40 years or more[1].

The Policy objective was focused on how to make males, aged 20 – 49 years, more aware of the emotional and physical consequences of speeding and the dangers of driver fatigue.

A Behavioural Analysis of the Policy Issue

The factors that inform speeding behaviour and rationalise the decision to drive when fatigued, include:

  • The incentive to speed, to get home or to a meeting faster, which can outweigh longer-term considerations such as the risk of accidents and fatalities or the implications of being caught by the police.
  • Availability bias,which is a cognitive bias where we tend to believe things that are most vivid to us or easily recalled. Therefore if a speeding related crash or accident is not related to us, we might believe ourselves to be invincible and unlikely to crash.
  • We are strongly influenced by what others are doing and how they are behaving. Therefore, if others are speeding, we may also feel licensed to speed.
  • Optimism bias, a tendency to be over confident and optimistic about our skills. Our response to fatigue is also partly related to optimism and overconfidence – we believe that we are fine to continue driving. 

The Campaign

The RTA developed the TV campaign ‘Don’t Rush’, which aimed to reduce the holiday road toll by reminding drivers of the shocking consequences of road trauma. Respected neurosurgeon Professor Brian Owler features in the campaign, talking directly to camera from the surgery theatre. He presents a simple questionnaire about driving to highlight the risks of speeding, for example, “would you rather a) arrive a few minutes in to the film? Or b) rush, lose control in the rain and snap your girlfriends spine?” See video here.

A second part of the campaign featured a real road crash survivor and his family, friends and other community members impacted by speeding related crashes, reminding drivers of the serious consequences of unsafe driving with the individuals stating, “I wish I wasn’t in this ad”.  See an example of an ad here.

Online users are also directed to the Transport for NSW ‘Slow Down Pledge’ initiative where they can view Professor Owler taking the ‘slow down pledge’ and are encouraged to take it themselves.

The campaign deployed five elements of MINDSPACE to powerful effect. The primary elements were MESSENGER and SALIENCE and the secondary elements were NORMS, COMMITMENT, and AFFECT.

MESSENGER: We are heavily influenced by those who communicate information. Using Professor Brian Owler to convey the message, a man who deals with the results of car crashes every day, means that the message carries greater influence and authority. We are also affected by the feelings we have for the messenger, and as he is a well-respected figure within the community this increases the power of his delivery of the communication message.

SALIENCE:The TV campaign ads featuring Professor Brian Owler help to make more vivid the consequences and imagery of a high speed crash by speaking in detail of the consequences (e.g. snapping your girlfriend’s spine, or crushing your daughter’s skull). In phase 2, some of the ads also showed some of the tragic and life-changing consequences of speeding related crashes (loss of limbs, early end of life to someone who was on a ventilator for 25 years before passing away). By making the consequences of a crash more vivid to people, the campaign hoped to leverage availability bias and salience to help people visualise the physical effects of the crash and make people think a crash more likely, and themselves less invincible, than they currently did.

NORMS: The campaign leveraged social norms, showing people “like us” who didn’t believe they would suffer the consequences of crashing. The videos featuring Professor Brian Owler also intended to appeal to people by framing speeding events through common activities, such as rushing to get to the football, or rushing to catch the start of a movie i.e. something we all might do.

COMMITMENT: Members of the public were encouraged to take a pledge online, tapping into commitment bias, which describes our tendency to make our behaviour consistent with publically made promises.

AFFECT: The act of experiencing emotion can trigger behavioural change. Severely injured people featured in the advertising conveyed the emotion of regret “I wish I wasn’t in this ad …”

Involving their family and friends in the advertisement also served to highlight the emotional impact of speeding accidents, not just on the victims, but on those around them.

The TV campaign with Professor Brian Owler also re-framed the issue by stripping away the ‘incentive’ to speed– you can drive safely and arrive a few minutes late, or you can risk a crash and serious physical and emotional damage.  Framing the consequences in this way can help to reduce availability bias and our tendency to underweight the probabilities of a crash.

Outcomes and Results

The campaign is currently still being evaluated to determine campaign effectiveness; however, there is some evidence it may have impacted on driving behaviour.  Respondents reported that since the advertisement, they had recently taken more care in sticking to the speed limit, and reduced their reported frequency of speeding. The secondary message of the campaign (in relation to fatigue) was also reported as successfully delivered, with drivers reporting to be less likely to drive home or commence a trip while tired.

This case study is part of a series of behavioural insights (BI) case studies compiled by the Department of Premier and Cabinet (DPC). While DPC is working with the UK Cabinet Office to push forward the use of BI in NSW, these case studies show how the NSW Government has already successfully applied BI techniques in a number of programs.

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