Road safety is among the top agendas in the world owing to its cardinality to development. With secure roads, people will be assured to move from one point to the other as they seek to improve their countries through development. It can be achieved through initiatives like campaigns which seek to sensitize the public on road safety. In this paper, I provide a report on a road safety campaign dubbed ‘Drink Driving: What is Your Plan B?’ by critically analyzing the campaign and evaluating the impact of behavior change on the effectiveness of road safety campaigns.
Keywords: road safety, traffic laws, behavior change, youth, road users
Drink Driving: What Is Your Plan B?
As the world moves towards total eradication of pandemic diseases, such as polio and malaria, the rate of people dying through road carnages around the world signifies a worrying trend. As much as technology and other social developments have striven towards making human life better, the same technology, such as increased use of cars has become a big contributor to the tragic road accidents. A number of measures from transport authorities and police like enactment of traffic laws and concerted campaigns have not yielded the necessary and anticipated results in terms of reduced road accidents. Current paper is a report based on the advert campaign dubbed ‘Drink Driving: What is Your Plan B?’ The campaign seeks to enlighten a section of the population on the importance of remaining sober whenever one is driving on the road.
The campaign was designed with an aim of reducing road carnage. It was informed by the need to complement different traffic laws put by the Government to govern the way people behave on the road. In fact, among the common provisions in the traffic law is the one that prohibits drink driving. Bhalla & Qingfeng (2013) note that drunk drivers cause twice as many accidents as the sober ones. It is the understanding of such background information that has enabled this team to receive support from the Government. It has utilized such obvious facts like the notion that when a person is drunk, he/she is unable to make correct judgments regarding distance and speed on the road. Therefore, he/she is likely to cause accidents whenever he drives while drunk.
Apart from the usual traffic laws, the campaign has also involved public awareness through education that seeks to sensitize the public on road safety issues. Such public awareness campaigns target a broad range of road users including motorists, pedestrians, and cyclists. However, most of the campaigns have only succeeded to the extent that most road users are aware of the dangers on the road. Yet the success level cannot be quantified in terms of reduced road accidents and increased observance of traffic rules. Though this has been a challenge the impact of the campaign in terms of these variables has continued to be felt (Bhalla & Qingfeng 2013).
The World Health Organization estimates that nearly 3,400 people die daily through road accidents. The figures do not include those that are disabled as a result of road accidents which could run into tens of millions. There are efforts of partnership between governmental and nongovernmental organizations to raise the profile on the prevention of road accidents through advocating for good practices on the road. The campaign has taken advantage of such opportunities to encourage such practices as the use of safety belts and wearing of helmets, avoiding driving while drunk, moving at a recommended speed, as well as using reflectors for pedestrians and cyclists’ visibility. However, such efforts are general in target and do not necessarily address specific groups of road users who are particularly vulnerable to road carnage (Smeed 2011).
In the advert under review, the target audience is young male drivers who are more likely to drive while drunk. According to Smeed (2011), it was used to justify the need to have policy makers put in place structures that recognize the vulnerability of young road users on top of the normal public awareness campaigns. Smeed had underlined the fact that many roads in low income countries are not particularly build to accommodate novice young drivers. Thus, initiatives for planning road safety need to be incorporated to cater for developmental differences for young road users. The chosen campaign targets an audience of young male drivers who are more likely to drink and drive. The prospects of dying in a road accident are too heavy especially for young energetic male citizens who are in their prime productive time. As such, it is evident that by looking at various options to arrive home safely, and even finally opting to walk home because of intoxication with alcohol, the target audience is ready for action. Thus, it indicates that road accidents are never a welcome experience for anybody least of all young people who want to be productive in their societies.
Such campaigns are necessary now than ever especially noting that as roads continue to be improved in terms of infrastructure, more young people are finding themselves lured into taking alcohol before driving which then increases chances of tragic accidents while driving (Kelvin & Graham 2013).
The behavior change for road users is something that must be addressed through social and cultural changes. For instance, in some countries, alcohol is part of the party in many celebrations. Since more young people are likely to attend a number of parties, it follows then that they are also likely to drink in those parties. As such, proposing that young people who take alcohol in their social places should not drive is actually calling for a cultural change in terms of what is served in social places. To this end, providing alternative means for traveling home will form a good starting point for behavior change among the youth who want to drink alcohol in their parties. For instance, rather than telling the youth not to drink and drive, the campaign proposes that the government can come up with a law that prohibits anyone to drive into a social party where alcohol is served. It will ensure that those who attend these parties already have their transport means in their minds while they are sober. Looking at the campaign advert, the young person who is probably drunk opts to walk home as plan B. It is equally dangerous as he is likely to be attacked by muggers or robbers. If the law that prohibits drinking and driving was instituted, such a person is likely to make rational arrangements like taking a taxi instead of walking (Pirdavani & Brijs 2013).
Behavior change especially in things that are socially and culturally acquired is hampered by a lack of constructive and objective approach to the problem at hand. According to Zampetti & Messina (2013), barriers to behavior can be psychological in terms of perceived needs, the channels of communication, personal influences, or individual attitude. They can also be cultural in terms of the context within which the behavior is exercised, cultural integration which determines the level of attachment that people have with strangers, fatalism which highlights the attitudes and belief systems that people have. Economic barriers to behavior change are highlighted in the associated costs with behavior change, vested interest, perceived advantage and the environmental impact. In this case, these factors play a role in determining whether the target audience in particular and road users in general are likely to hit the call for road safety. For instance, in adhering to the objective and spirit of the campaign, no alcohol seller should sell alcohol to anyone with a vehicle. Yet, their economic interests will surpass the effort for safer roads and unethically sell alcohol to someone who is likely to cause road accident. As such, the competing alternative behaviors include the desire to fit in a particular social class. For instance, someone will simply drink just because his/her peers are drinking, without considering the means of transport to their home. The other is the economic interest that traffic laws and alcohol tend to provide a contradiction to the collection of revenue. It is common knowledge that governments benefit in terms of taxes from breweries and alcohol sellers. Thus, it might be impractical to put too restrictive laws in place to the extent that no one is able to drink again (Baum 2000).
In as much as the barriers exist, the campaign helps to remove them to change by allowing revelers to ponder on available plan B; even those craziest ones like teleporting if that will help to prevent road accidents. The campaign thus provides drinkers with an opportunity to think about their safety while drinking, and therefore be able to settle on a reasonable option with regard to their safety on the way home. More importantly, the campaigns reveal other dangers of drunk driving when the young man who opts to walk home goes by a police check probably routing for drunk drivers. It means that if the young person had decided to drive regardless of his drunken status, he would not have escaped the police. It would be so irrespective of whether he was lucky not to have caused a road accident. The campaign reveals that the barriers for behavior change in terms of economic interest can take a back seat even with the Government which is the beneficiary of this provision. Thus anyone who decides to drink and drive does it at his/her own risk and stands facing the law when he/she is arrested (Tay 2005).
The success of any initiative can be quantified through the responses of the targeted audience. The campaign under review is a success because the targeted audience actually opts for a little better option like walking home rather than driving while drunk. The impact of road safety must be reflected through the reduction of road accidents and increased adherence to traffic laws. According to Tay (2005), it is not the case around the world, as despite the numerous campaigns that target specific audiences, cases of road accidents have continued to be reported around the world with millions of people being rendered disabled. It means that road safety campaigns need to change their approach so that stiffer penalties are melted on offenders of road traffic rules. In line with this, the campaign also targets the agents of social and behavioral change since they will need to be reactivated so that road users have a changed perception of road usage and reduce cases of road accidents. The ultimate benefit is continued awareness on the role of personal safety conscience while on the road so that it is not the duty of campaigners to remind people regularly over the need to observe road safety.
Furthermore, it is instructive of stakeholders to consider an economic framework that will enable development of better infrastructure on roads so that road users are not only informed on road safety but that the infrastructure in place are supportive of the ultimate goal of having secure roads for everyone. It is vital to note that research by Horwood & Fergusson (2000), indicates that except for very few suicide drivers, most drivers are conscious road users who do not have the malice of intentionally causing a road accident. Nevertheless, the positive intent in the actions of road users can be overwhelmed by many accidents which are caused solely by their positive intent. It might call for Government intervention through legislations.
With more tens of thousands of people dying on the roads and millions of others becoming disabled from injuries, road accidents are likely to become a leading cause of death in the world. It is, already a leading cause of death among youth aged 18-30 years. The trend is worrying especially because this group of people is the most energetic and enthusiastic about nation building. One of the reasons for increased deaths among the youth is the drink driving which has formed the center of focus for many campaign initiatives. In fact, the target audiences are young male drivers who are likely to drink and drive. Although the outcomes of such driving are not always perfect, they definitely help in behavior change on young people that are brought about by social, economic, and psychological pressures. Current report reveals that the ‘Drink Driving: What is Your Plan B?’ campaign is more likely to have a positive impact on drink driving as it offers explicit options to young people who chose to take alcohol in their social gatherings.