A number of pressure points are used by the police, local councils, roading authorities and the government in order to encourage (or force) people to comply with road rules. They are mostly either fear-based and result in some kind of penalty or punishment for breaking them, or legislation-based to compel vehicle manufacturers to include specific technology.
Road rules are created for good reasons:
- Reduce the likelihood of an accident
- Reduce the severity of an accident
- Discourage anti-social behaviour
- Improve environmental performance
- Discourage other kinds of illegal behaviour (e.g. drug use)
Advertising road safety
It’s not just the police and government that advertise road safety; there are numerous other agencies and charities with their own agendas that place advertising.
New Zealand is a world leader in road safety advertising and produces ads such as this one which uses social awkwardness to discourage mobile phone use when driving.
There are always many campaigns running at the same time which address different audience demographics, different types of vehicles and different outcomes for road safety, including:
- Speed awareness
- Drug driving
- Drink driving
- Young driver risks
- Sharing the road with vulnerable road users
Good advertising gradually increases peer pressure and gives a stigma to driving unlawfully. Four decades ago is was no big deal to drive home slightly drunk, but now almost everyone is against it.
Road signs are the most basic form of advertising, advising of speed limits and hazards ahead.
The government implements fuel taxes to increase the price of fuel. Increased prices encourage people to drive more sensibly because that’s more economical, and therefore it hurts their wallet less. Fuel consumption also drives the uptake of newer vehicles with better safety features and less emissions.
People are aware of their environmental impact and choose to drive more slowly to minimise their fuel consumption. Government restrictions in the MoT mean that vehicles must be kept tuned to reduce the amount of noxious chemicals released. Incentives for electric cars and hybrids encourages change.
Roads can be constructed to influence speeds. Narrower lanes and certain types of line markings automatically cause drivers to slow down. Overt features such as sleeping policemen, chicanes, narrowings and other traffic calming measures further reduce speeds.
Punishments, penalties and restriction of privileges
Penalties and punishments are the most well-known form of encouraging safe driving. Financial penalties are extremely bad for some and only a minor irritation for others, but losing your licence due to accumulating too many points is a severe inconvenience. In some cases a driver’s transgressions might be newsworthy and therefore cause extreme embarrassment on an ongoing basis, given that the news is now digital and never disappears.
Vehicle manufacturers include some technology because it’s mandated, e.g. electronic stability control, and some technology because it’s convenient and therefore becomes a selling point, e.g. a speed limiter. Technology like electronic stability control helps reduce accidents through enabling the driver to more easily remain in control of the car in a difficult situation, but it also helps prevent loss of traction (e.g. burnouts).
Black box insurance and telematics which are tied to insurance premiums provide encouragement to stay within the predefined parameters so as not to lose any benefits promised (e.g. reduced premiums).
Dash cams are increasingly popular as a form of protection against insurance fraud, but they also expose the driver of the car to police action if they are the ones breaking the law.
Autonomous vehicles will begin to take over some aspects of driving and will adhere to rules.
Community-driven programs to help people get their licence reduce the incidence of unlicenced drivers behind the wheel who might usually not get a licence because of funding issues.
Darren has owned several companies in the automotive, advertising and education industries. He has run driving theory educational websites since 2010.