Imagining: a method to reduce risk-taking among young male drivers?

A long-standing problem in traffic psychology is the issue of how to persuade car drivers, especially young male drivers, to take less risk while driving. Recent research in social psychology has managed to accomplish significant changes in beliefs, attitudes and behaviour by merely asking respondents to reflect on how they would feel after engaging in potentially remorse-invoking activities or by asking subjects to imagine a hypothetical event. In order to explore the effects of such interventions in the traffic safety area, a field experiment comprising a total of 353 young men with a drivers' licence was conducted. 88 per cent of the men were 18 or 19 years old at the time of the study, the maximum age was 23 years. Participants in the two experimental groups were induced to imagine a severe accident scenario, to visualise how they would feel and what the consequences for their future lives would be. Participants in the control group were interviewed about their reasons for taking a licence and about their favourite car. Risk-taking behaviour, i.e. self-reported violations of traffic rules, was measured before the intervention and at follow-up some five weeks later. Attitudes towards risk-taking in traffic were measured post-intervention and at follow-up. Significant differences in risk-taking attitudes between the control group and both the experimental groups were found immediately after the intervention, but at follow-up these effects had vanished. This was however partly due to the fact that the attitudes of the control group had changed in the direction of becoming less indicative of risk-taking, i.e. approaching the attitudes of the experimental groups. Regarding self-reported risk-taking behaviours there was a significant time-effect, both the control group and the experimental groups reported a safer behaviour at follow-up than before the intervention. In a supplementary study, with essentially the same design but without intervention, this time-effect remained. It is suggested that answering the questionnaires served as a mind-opener that increased mental elaboration concerning risky driving. The conclusion is that interventions that unobtrusively stimulate people to reflect and imagine, could have a potential to increase traffic safety (A). For the covering abstract of the conference see ITRD E212343.

  • Authors:
    • FALK, B
  • Publication Date: 2006


  • English

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  • Accession Number: 01102469
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Source Agency: TRL
  • Files: ITRD
  • Created Date: Jun 16 2008 7:44AM