New ads to deter young drivers using smartphones

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Young woman using her smartphone while driving a car
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A Queensland University of Technology researcher believes taking a positive and even humorous approach to road safety ads could be the key to reducing the number of young drivers who use their smartphones behind the wheel.

Cassandra Gauld, from QUT’s Centre for Accident Research & Road Safety – Queensland (CARRS-Q), said research showed humour and being light-hearted in advertising messages offered an effective alternative to graphic, threat and fear-based ads.

“Despite knowing mobile phone use is distracting, young people are four times more likely to text and drive and twice as likely to make a phone call. They also engage in social media though sites such as Facebook when driving,” she said.

To test her theory, Ms Gauld has launched an online survey to evaluate the effectiveness of advertisements aimed at smartphone use by young drivers.

“This Queensland-based survey seeks to better understand what messages are effective in stopping young drivers monitoring, reading or responding to their smartphones while driving, as well as their underlying beliefs, attitudes and intentions to use social interactive technology,” she said.

“A follow-up survey a week later will then ask participants how they have or haven’t used their smartphones and how likely they were to in the future.”

Ms Gauld said smartphone ownership had doubled in Australia in the past three years and socialising on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram while driving was a big distraction facing young drivers.

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“Young drivers are inexperienced yet more likely to use smartphone social technology than older drivers and therefore the risk of severe injury is heightened among drivers aged 17 to 25,” she said.

“When drivers are distracted using their smartphones they are more at risk of lane wandering, increased reaction time, missing traffic signals and reduced situational awareness.

“Enforcement and public education are two countermeasures that, in combination, have been shown to reduce other risky road user behaviours such as drink driving and speeding.

“But police face unique challenges when attempting to enforce laws banning the use of handheld mobile phones while driving such as drivers concealing use of their phones and tinted windows.

“Driver distraction from smartphones remains a relatively new phenomenon, and as such we are still learning about the types of persuasive approaches likely to be effective in stopping young drivers from socialising behind the wheel.”

The study is open to Queensland drivers aged 17-25 who have a current driver’s licence and own a smartphone.

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(Source: Queensland University of Technology)

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Date Created: April 24, 2016