The premise of this project arose from consideration of areas in road safety where we have achieved success, and the issues on which we continue to struggle such as speeding. With the growing need to look beyond the traditional boundaries of road safety and engage with new stakeholders, it seemed pertinent to examine behavioural change within other fields of public policy to discover whether parallels exist and if lessons can be drawn. The aims of the project through the use of case studies have been three-fold:
● to consider holistically approaches to and patterns of behaviour change
● to identify strategies used to influence ‘public’ and individual opinion
● to ground the case studies in behavioural theory and consider the role of models more widely.
The selected case studies internal to road safety are as follows: seat belts, drinking and driving and speeding. Some recommendations which are specific to these issues are included, such as PACTS reiterating its support for a lowered drink drive limit and the need to disentangle conflict over speed cameras from the more general debate on speed and review available evidence. However, the case studies at a more over-arching level provide considerable insight into approaches and strategies towards behaviour change within road safety and the components that can facilitate or hinder success.
The issues considered which are external to road safety span the spectrum of enforcement and each case study offers interesting insights: Smokefree is a pertinent example of successful public influencing; recycling demonstrates the importance of a coherent and cohesive approach to behavioural change and the merits of recourse to theory; modal shift initiatives reflect the importance of personalised engagement as well as reiterating the difficulties faced in any attempt to change behaviour.
Analysis of the differing approaches to behaviour change, the use of theory and methods of public influencing has allowed a series of conclusions and recommendations to emerge. The overwhelming finding across all case studies was the need to be exhaustive in our efforts to understand the nature of the problem, the barriers to change and the specificity of attitudes, beliefs and values. On many issues we face very specific challenges and far-reaching research into the motivations and impediments to change, incorporating techniques such as segmentation, will continue to be required to shape interventions and particularly communication campaigns.
In line with other commentary and work on the subject of behaviour change, the research found that stand-alone approaches have not been effective. Success is premised on using a mixture of intervention methods at many different levels. Similarly incorporating ambitious targets helps to drive behavioural change efforts at a policy level stimulating action and innovation. Including subsidiary and intermediate targets should help to direct resources. Furthermore we should include the recipients of policy within the policy and target creation process as far as possible as it helps provide a greater sense of agency and ownership towards public policy goals. In light of this the consideration and understanding of public attitudes will be crucial particularly in allowing us to discover the readiness for change, appropriate framing for messages and if gaps exist between vocalised and actual attitudes and between attitudes and behaviour. Several of the case studies, including drinking and driving, Smoke Free and seat belts demonstrate how important a supportive and informed public can be in achieving change.
In order to direct this change the report identifies some key influences and changes which need to be made within road safety. Overwhelmingly the review emphasises the importance of a clear, established and well understood evidence base. Additionally it is important to achieve coherence within the road safety community and present our evidence appropriately to the public, politicians and policy makers and business.
The Pro-Environmental movement, the seat belt campaign and examples of road safety initiatives in other countries relate the importance of political, social and cultural advocacy. PACTS believes that in the UK some road safety issues, such as speeding, lack this high-level advocacy and consequently recommends the identification of possible advocates in the business and political spheres. More concerted and vocal efforts will be required by organisations already involved in road safety, such as PACTS, to further the image and importance of road safety issues. Working with new stakeholders will create broader coalitions, and ensure that road safety remains important on the political agenda and that new opportunities for intervention are built upon. Most notably this will occur in links between the Department for Health and the Department for Transport and in sustainable travel initiatives.
The report also considers and draws upon models of behavioural theory. We conclude that theory and models can play an important role in guiding and informing intervention. Given that we are facing increasingly specific challenges in road safety and the focus is shifting towards education and communication, a greater understanding of peoples’ attitudes, beliefs and behaviours will be fundamental to success. An appreciation of behavioural theory will play an important role in achieving this and hence PACTS suggests the creation of a new national training course. Interventions such as the Scottish Executive’s ‘Foolspeed’ campaign also demonstrate the value of drawing upon theoretical models in the evaluation process. Evaluation of public information and education is difficult and greater recourse to theory would help to identify behavioural outcomes and offer structure to the evaluation process.
The recycling case study highlights the role of consistency of message and the provision of best practice in achieving cohesive and well structured communication campaigns. Road safety has many different stakeholders and providers of advertising and educational information to the public and a wealth of research on these topics. As a result the report recommends a series of steps; the DfT should set up an independent body to produce best practice guidance on road safety education and public information campaigns and should also produce regular and accessible, in style, tone and format, syntheses of research findings and their practical implications. Separately, a database of all road safety advertising, educational and publicity campaigns from both the public and private spheres in the UK should be set up.
The review also finds that increasingly in other policy spheres the level and form of engagement have been important. Personal engagement, feedback and community engagement all have been found to facilitate behaviour change. The challenge for road safety is to further incorporate these into our own interventions.
Alongside the more general findings, a series of recommendations specific to the road safety case studies are made which PACTS believe would help facilitate greater success. For seat belts this concerns the need to investigate links with ethnicity and deprivation as well as continuing our support for the introduction of seat belt reminders.
On drinking and driving giving the police the power to undertake targeted breath testing, type approving evidential breath testing devices, working with the Department for Health to investigate the effects of 24hr licensing and the need to reduce the BAC limit are the key recommendations.
Speeding is again found to be a most complex problem. The report recommends that a peer review of the evidence base on speed and speed-related issues is undertaken; that the speed camera argument is disentangled from the more general debate on speed; that the wider use of average speed cameras may help this; that the long term potential of Vehicle Activated Signs (VAS) and Speed Indication Devices (SIDS) to change attitudes is investigated and that the DfT conducts a new Speed Management Review.
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