Claims that advertisements have led to a drop in teenage drink drivers are simply wishful thinking, according to a major American study.
The internationally respected American Insurance Institute for Highway Safety did a major study of the effectiveness of road safety advertising and concluded:
“Research indicates that education has no effect, or only a very limited effect, on habits like staying within speed limits, heeding stop signs, and using safety belts.”
“[Until you check out the facts,] 'who can argue against the benefits of education or training?' asks Institute chief scientist Allan Williams. “But when good scientific evaluations are undertaken, most of the driver improvement programs based on education or persuasion alone are found not to work.”
Clive Matthew-Wilson, who edits the car review website dogandlemon.com, says:
“Teenagers are ruled by their hormones. How they drive is largely governed by whatever hormones happen to be flowing at the time. Also, the frontal lobes of the brain, which are used to assess risk, are not fully developed during the teenage years. That’s one of the reasons teenagers tend to believe they’re ten foot tall and bulletproof.”
Matthew-Wilson believes there are seven factors behind the reduced incidence of teenage drink driving:
- The raising of the driver’s license age from 15 to 16.
- Better enforcement of liquor outlets, which has reduced the supply of alcohol to underage drinkers.
- Better strategies by parents; for example, not letting teenagers drive to parties or arranging to pick them up after parties.
- Police harassment of functions where large numbers of teenagers are likely to get drunk. For example, police and liquor authorities are cracking down on boozy school after-ball parties.
- Restrictions on learner drivers carrying passengers and driving late at night. International research has shown these two strategies are highly effective at reducing illegal driving behavior.
- Higher fuel prices, which make recreational driving less affordable and less attractive for the highest risk groups.
- Zero-alcohol limits for teenage drivers mean that teenagers are less likely to risk having ‘just one or two’ drinks before driving home.
“In a perfect world, teenagers would obey their parents and avoid unnecessary risks. In the real world, teenagers tend to do the exact opposite. It would be wonderful if road safety advertisements actually worked, but the evidence says otherwise.”
“Road safety dollars are limited, and dollars that are wasted on strategies that don’t work, mean there are less dollars spent on the strategies that have been scientifically proven to work. For example, the millions spent on road safety advertising over the last twenty years could have been spent instead on placing rumble strips down the sides of a large percentage of our roads. Unlike road safety ads, rumble strips have been scientifically proven to save lives.”