Shock tactics have long been a staple approach to changing risky driving behaviours however, recent research by GHI’s Associate Professor Ian Glendon from the Behavioural Basis of Health program has found some driver safety programs may be contributing to the problem.
Professor Glendon’s group was given rare access to evaluate a high school pre license safety program by one of Australia’s largest pre-driver training providers. Their research team found program participants had worse attitudes to unsafe driving after taking the course.
The importance of evaluation
“These programs are well intentioned and our results are counter-intuitive, but it shows how important evaluation is when setting up a program like this,” said Professor Glendon.
“This is not an unusual occurrence, which some psychologists call the boomerang effect, where you get the opposite result of what you intended.”
As well as surveying the intervention and control groups prior to training, Professor Glendon’s group observed six sessions of the training course and followed up with questionnaires immediately after, then again six weeks after the course, and compared the group with a sample of students who did not take the course.
“The young people basically disassociated themselves from the situations they were presented with and thought ‘that’s never gonna happen to me’ and that is the last thing you want.
“These courses are market driven, that’s their evaluation, but they need to be prepared to conduct proper evaluations and alter their training accordingly.
“I mean, we’ve potentially got real lives at stake here.”
The driver training provider will meet soon with Professor Glendon to discuss the implications of his research.