Fear appeals in road safety advertisements: the reactions of university students

The use of threat and shock messages in road safety advertising has become common. Nevertheless, the use of these fear appeals is surrounded by controversy, in particular due to the difficulty of measuring its efficacy in changing behaviours. In Portugal, young people are considered a "group at risk" due to their higher accident rate. Little is known about their reaction to road safety messages. Here a quasi-experimental study with non-equivalent group design is described. The effects of threat levels (low and high, conveyed by two television spots) on the reactions of university students are investigated. The young people's personality trait of sensation seeking was considered as a variable that could influence their attitudes towards safe driving. It was measured using an adaptation of Zuckerman's Sensation Seeking Scale. Participants were 220 university students aged between 18 and 29 years old (mean age, 21 years). The findings indicate that a high appeal to fear leads to a high perception of threat, therefore, influencing self-efficacy and intention to drive safely. However, perceived susceptibility showed to have a greater impact on changes in attitudes towards safe driving than fear arousal. This means that market segmentation is necessary to define better messages because different audiences respond more or less effectively to specific threats. The trait of sensation seeking turned out to be of no significance within the framework of this study sample.


  • English

Media Info

  • Pagination: 10p (oral presentations)
  • Serial:
    • Issue Number: 161

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01382615
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Source Agency: ARRB
  • Files: ATRI
  • Created Date: Aug 22 2012 1:24PM