A 2012 survey carried out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 25% of US teens were texting while driving quite regularly. They also looked at teen behaviour in the UK and surprisingly only 3% of British teenagers admitted to using their mobile phone while driving. There might be some cultural and lifestyle differences but it wouldn’t be possible to attribute such a vast difference to the level of cell phone addiction. There must be some other factors playing part.
Distracted driving accounts for 5,000 annual deaths in North America. That’s a huge number and is considered by traffic safety campaigners as one of the last fortresses in the battle for safe roads. We’ve finally learned to build super-safe cars, the road infrastructure is improving, so once we eliminate the human factor, there will be no more road casualties, right? Getting drivers and pedestrians to think and to become more responsible is going to take an effort in education but it’s not always enough. Sometimes you simply need a wake-up call to mobilize the brain.
That’s pretty much what the UK’s Department of Transport has tried to do with a series of controversial ad campaigns dubbed THINK! At the beginning they were met with fierce criticism – many viewers complained that showing blood and corpses on prime-time telly was inappropriate. Psychologists would disagree with the public outrage.
We all assimilate information in a similar way and although there’s often a clear borderline between the “visual learners” and “verbal learners” – school teachers will understand what I’m on about – there’s no denying that a picture is worth a thousand words. What is a disturbing picture worth? It is proven by psychologists that the so-called working memory is more efficient at storing information in the long-term memory if a strong external impulse is added. That will explain that we are much better at memorizing the best and the worst moment of our life. The mundane situations just seem to fade with time.
So, no matter how much the puritans will oppose the “in-your-face” approach, the disturbing traffic awareness ads are working: a man being killed behind the wheel while chatting to his wife on the phone; a dead teenager staring with glassy eyes; an X-ray visualization of lungs hitting the rib-cage from inside – those things simply stay with you and hopefully are replayed in your mind when you’re tempted to stray from safe driving practices.
There are some good stats to back it up. In the mid-1960s there were around 7500 road casualties in the UK every year. Through tougher penalties and improved cars this number went down to 3000 by the Millennium. The biggest reduction in traffic casualties in the UK can be observed between 2007 and 2011. It coincides with the launch of the “bloody” car ads. However, it wouldn’t be right to attribute the reduction to those ads alone. Although public awareness is important when dealing with traffic safety, there are other factors that have allowed us to reduce the road deaths from 2946 to 1857 a year in the space of 5 short years. Bans on using mobile phones while driving were introduced, speed cameras appeared and penalties became more severe – and they will have played a big part in this.
Nevertheless, the CDC study that we mentioned in the beginning shows that it is possible to influence the behaviour of young drivers by providing information over the appropriate channels. All of the THINK! videos are available on YouTube – you should share them with your family and friends!
The Drop It And Drive YouTube channel has compiled over 300 videos from across the globe, including a few of our own. We’ve also broken down some top picks of videos appropriate for teens with those in our corporate list more geared towards the experienced driver.
Please share your comments on what type of message you think works best for our youth & experienced drivers.