How can we persuade young drivers to slow down?

Issue date: 04 March 2009

A speedometer The University of the West of England and Bristol City Council are collaborating on a social marketing initiative for the Department for Transport as part of a national drive to bring about innovative road safety projects. The Road Safety Partnerships Grant scheme will fund a joint project to evaluate the effectiveness of social marketing targeted towards young drivers in deprived areas.

The Road Safety Minister, Jim Fitzpatrick, announced investment of £3.6M to spread over a range of initiatives around the UK yesterday and Bristol will receive almost £50,000 funding.

Professor Alan Tapp from the Social Marketing Centre at UWE's Bristol Business School will lead the project. He said, “The essence of the problem is that once young men have passed their driving test, a variety of things influence them to drive too fast. There are often strong social pressures from their friends, plus they do not have the experience to cope when things go wrong. In addition to this they have not generally developed the empathy or sensitivity to see how their behaviour makes others feel. We have to understand that in some deprived areas where these young men often lead fairly hum drum lives, driving fast brings some excitement into their lives.

“In the past this has been addressed through legislation and law enforcement and in advertising terms via “fear appeals” such as the recent Think! TV ads. These ads can work but younger men are unlikely to notice these messages or to be dismissive of them.

“As a result the Department for Transport is looking for different ways to engage this sector of the community and this is where we come in. We will work closely with the Road Safety Team at Bristol City Council and research and test trial a range of different initiatives. Things like group discussion work, or ideas like days away from the community with strong role models, will all be in the mix to be tried”.

Cllr Jon Rogers, Executive Member for Transport and Sustainability, said, “I welcome any research that may lead to ways of reducing the heavy toll of those killed and seriously injured on our roads. Drivers of all ages can be involved in such tragedies, but there is evidence that young male drivers are particularly affected. The key to safety is consideration, respect and care for all road users.”

Jim Fitzpatrick said, “Britain has some of the safest roads in the world and in 2007 the number of people killed on the roads fell below 3,000 for the first time since records began in 1926.

“But if we are to continue to cut this terrible toll we need to find innovative ways to tackle the road safety problems we face. This extra funding will support local authorities using the latest techniques, which in turn will help to spread good practice around the country and make our roads safer for everyone.

“I look forward to seeing the results of this exciting project in Bristol.”


Editors notes:

The Department for Transport awarded up to £3,538,342 in Road Safety Partnership Grant. The exact amount of the financial support to be provided will depend on progress on the projects. Details of all the grants given will be available on the DfT website at:

Eight local authorities will use the funding to tackle road safety problems in their areas using new techniques, then share evidence with other authorities and agencies. The money is in addition to the £110m given to local authorities each year to spend on road safety and local transport capital funding support of about £1.3bn per year.

Other authorities to benefit are Warwickshire, Cheshire, Derbyshire, Lancashire, the London Borough of Hounslow, Oldham and Staffordshire.

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