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Primary Enforcement vs. Driver Education

While Public Citizen supports educating drivers, study after study show that general education efforts are utterly ineffective in making any long-term impact upon safety-related habits and choices. Merely letting citizens know about risks, sadly, does nothing to permanently alter behavior for the better.

To be effective, education campaigns must be accompanied by aggressive legal penalties and the enforcement of penalties. In addition, the focus of the education effort must be to amplify the impact of the deterrent effect of penalties, rather than to raise awareness in general about safety hazards. Each of the following three ingredients have been discovered, time and time again, to be crucial to a successful behavioral change effort:

  1. Primary, strong penalties under law for failing to comply with the safety measure;
  2. Stepped-up enforcement of penalties; and
  3. Pervasive publicity about both penalties and enhanced enforcement by authorities.

Each of these elements is present in NHTSA’s current efforts in its "Click It or Ticket" campaigns to increase safety belt use, and is needed for an investment in public relations or advertising to show a long-term and substantial return in increased safety.

Additional research on primary enforcement and education:

    » autosafety | driver behav | primary enf


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