Driver interventions can do more harm than good

Sometimes trying to help young drivers can have a negative affect.

Interventions that mean well don’t always end well

Sadly, there are examples of public health education initiatives that end up doing more harm than good. Even with the best of intentions, it’s possible to have unintentionally negative effects.

When it comes to road safety, it’s important to fully think through any driver interventions and to keep an eye out for a range of potential pitfalls.

See how it can all go wrong

This initiative was designed to give young people first-hand experience of prisons. Ultimately it actually increased offending. The reality is that it would have been better not to run the scheme at all.

Other examples of education doing more harm than good

Exposing young people to more risk

This can happen if they end up getting their driving licence earlier than expected.

Sometimes an intervention can:

  • Encourage the audience to learn to drive when they might not have been thinking about it
  • Help them to pass their test earlier, without having enough practice on the road

Supporting stereotypical behaviour

A common stereotype is a young male driver taking deliberate and excessive risks when driving.

By simply presenting this image, it can reinforce the social norm that suggests this style of driving is normal and expected.

What are social norms?

These are unwritten rules of beliefs, attitudes, and behaviours that are considered acceptable in a particular social group or culture.

How do you ‘Do no harm’?

For starters, it’s important not to assume that an intervention will ‘do good’. The best way to avoid this happening is to properly design and evaluate an intervention.

Find out more about good design and evaluation:

Aims and objectives

Think about the content of an intervention

If you’re developing or delivering road safety education, you need to bear in mind that some topics might be difficult for your audience.

So, try to consider whether the intervention (or any materials used) might cause any discomfort, anxiety, or have a negative impact on people.

Think about the way a session is run

Whilst the content is important, how sessions are set up can also make a difference.

For example, pushing young people to openly discuss topics like drink driving, drug driving or deaths from a road accident could make some people very uncomfortable.

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