Road safety ads a waste of time - expert

Tuesday 7 June 2011, 8:02AM
By Dog & Lemon Guide

The government’s new advertising campaign – aimed at improving the poor safety record of teenage drivers – is an expensive waste of money, according to a leading road safety expert.

Clive Matthew-Wilson, editor of the car review website, says:

“The best scientific evidence suggests that road safety advertising campaigns don’t work at all.”

The highly respected American Insurance Institute for Highway Safety recently surveyed 20 years of road safety education campaigns and concluded:

“When good scientific evaluations are undertaken, most of the driver improvement programs based on education or persuasion alone are found not to work.”

Similarly, an extensive study by the South Australian government suggested that the millions spent on road safety advertising campaigns had simply been wasted.

Matthew-Wilson adds: “Most credible studies have shown that the main reason for the lower road toll in recent years is a combination of safer cars, safer roads, and improved medical intervention after accidents. Accidents that would have killed you 20 years ago are now easily survivable. That’s why the death rates are falling but the injury rates are still very high.”

“While the government wastes money on advertising campaigns, proven ways of lowering the road toll are simply ignored. For example, the government has two independent reports showing that we could dramatically lower the road toll if all vehicles used daytime running lights, yet daytime running lights aren’t even on the government’s agenda.”

“The evidence that vehicles are safer with their lights on is overwhelming. As from this year, all new cars operating in Europe must have daytime running lights. Why has the New Zealand government simply ignored this policy?”

Matthew-Wilson says it’s often far more effective to change the roads than to try and change the behaviour of drivers. He gave the example of the Auckland harbour bridge, which used to suffer one serious road accident every week.

“After a barrier was installed down the middle, the serious accidents stopped immediately. There wasn’t one less hoon or drunk driver, and yet the accidents stopped because the road was changed in a way that prevented mistakes from becoming fatalities.”