A strategic approach to implementing countermeasures

Countermeasures need to be implemented in a strategic manner that shows results both immediately and over the longer term. In doing so, particular attention should be paid to the key elements that underlie and increase risk. Furthermore, there are important differences between the various countermeasures in terms of their impact, their costs, and the timelines within which they can be implemented, which will condition the options for action. In particular, those that require new legislation will take considerable time to implement.

The following is a suggested step by step implementation of countermeasures:

  • Increase public awareness of the problem. This could involve undertaking information campaigns, based on well-researched information, sensitising the public to the nature of the risk and encouraging changes in attitudes and behaviour. Also, political leaders could highlight the problem in speeches and other interventions. This countermeasure may be undertaken immediately. In itself, it is not expected to yield high reductions in risk, but it is a prerequisite for achieving greater public understanding of the problem and encouraging acceptance of other countermeasures. Furthermore, the combination of other countermeasures, particularly enforcement, with communication can bring about changes in attitudes towards safety risk over the longer term. There are obvious costs involved, although these are likely to be uncontroversial, given the importance of the message and the fact that the public is accustomed to seeing information campaigns from public authorities.
  • Consider the road safety effects, especially for young drivers, of public policy decisions that are not directly related to road safety. These include, among others, such issues as the availability and cost of public transport, the costs of operating a vehicle, the availability of parking at schools and other areas frequented by young people, and the locations of bars and discos. The immediate impact may not be expected to be particularly large, although over time it could have important cumulative effects. This is an area where action could begin immediately, although more time would be required to formalise such practice. Resistance is to be particularly expected in instances where decisions limit the options of individuals and businesses.
  • Implement overall road safety improvements that address young driver risk. This includes ensuring the existence of appropriate legislation and rigorous enforcement of road safety law, focusing on areas where young driver risk is especially high: speeding, alcohol, drugs and seat belt use. It is an area where immediate action can be taken, based on existing laws and regulations, and short-term gains are to be expected. There will be important costs, in the form of resources used for enforcement, as well as in the implementation of high standards of safety in vehicles and infrastructure. Effective communication will thus be required to gain public support. However, public resistance may be expected, particularly to enforcement.
  • Introduce high levels of pre-licensing accompanied practice. This is potentially one of the most effective countermeasures. However, it may require new legislation, meaning that it cannot be implemented in the immediate term. Costs are relatively low, both to administrations and the public, and primarily consist of demands on the time of young, novice drivers and those who accompany them. While young people themselves may be expected to voice opposition, consultation with the community, including co-operation with relevant community groups, may well reveal a widespread demand for action to reduce young driver risks. In countries where licensing begins at 18 years-old, resistance will be less if the accompanied practice is allowed to begin before that age.
  • Implement protective restrictions during initial solo driving. This countermeasure holds considerable potential. It should include BAC levels of no more than 0.2 g/l. and limited driving at night and/or with passengers should also be considered. Again, legislation is probably required, although the minimal BAC restrictions could possibly be implemented under existing drink-driving laws. The effective enforcement discussed under the second point is a key pre-requisite to such measures. There will also be additional administrative costs associated with changes to the licensing system. Considerable resistance to these measures can be expected from the young drivers themselves, although an effective communication strategy may reveal substantial support for such measures among society in general.
  • Provide effective disincentives to inappropriate driving behaviour. Enforcement of road safety law and special licensing measures will only be effective if they are backed up with concrete repercussions for non-compliance. Novice drivers should be subject to probationary periods during which inappropriate behaviour could result in loss of driving privileges or obligatory retraining. This could be reinforced by way of special demerit point scales. Such countermeasures may require new legislation, but would not add important additional costs to those associated with enforcement, as discussed above. While they may be subject to considerable resistance from young drivers, they are not expected to be unpopular with society as a whole. Additional disincentives to unsafe driving by young drivers could be provided through vehicle insurance. Road safety administrations and insurance companies could examine means of co-operating in this area.
  • Improve driver training and testing, including a stronger focus on self-awareness and understanding the circumstances that lead to safer driving. Such changes will require considerable prior analysis, and probably legislative action, meaning that they will require time for implementation. While this measure is important, it is not likely to have the same impact as countermeasures that effectively limit exposure to risk and increase experience prior to solo driving, such as those noted in Points 3 and 4. Initially, there will be new costs associated with changes to the licensing system, and resistance may be expected from the driver instruction industry in particular.
  • Understand the benefits of technological solutions for monitoring and enforcement, and for assisting the novice driver with the driving task, and selectively implement these where they prove to be effective. This is a longer term initiative, particularly as it will involve research and development. While the potential is high, the actual gains to be achieved from new technologies are unknown. These solutions will initially generate new costs for implementing technology in vehicles, which could cause resistance from drivers and vehicle manufacturers. Concerns regarding the legal side effects of new technologies will also need to be addressed, particularly if they are perceived to relinquish the driver of full responsibility for operating the vehicle.
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