Rural roads targeted in new safety campaign
Drivers are being urged by road safety experts to think about the dangers of driving too fast for road conditions in a new THINK! campaign launched (6 March 2023).
The new THINK! campaign, “Is pushing it worth it?” is targeted at young male drivers, as statistics show male drivers aged 17 to 24 are 4 times more likely to be killed or seriously injured than drivers aged 25 or over. Research findings also show that 60% of all serious and fatal collisions involving young male car drivers were on rural roads.
Safety experts raise further concerns as less than half (43%) of young men consider exceeding the speed limit to be unacceptable, while over two thirds (68%) see drink driving as unacceptable and over half (52%) think using a mobile without handsfree is unacceptable.
Alongside the campaign, the government continues to consider how to enhance road safety, with a particular focus on rural roads. As part of the Safer Roads Fund, the government, together with local authorities and safety groups, is continuing to deliver a wide range of improvements across rural roads.
To date, £100 million has been provided through the programme to improve the 50 most dangerous roads in England, the majority of which are rural roads. Some of the improvements already made include improved signage, safer pedestrian crossings and better designed junctions.
Road Safety Minister Richard Holden said:
“Road safety is our priority, but we want to accelerate our efforts to tackle unsafe driving habits and create some of the safest roads in the world.
“We’re highlighting the dangers of relaxed driving attitudes on rural roads so that everyone recognises that pushing the speed limit is just not worth it.”
Speeding accounts for around 1 in 4 fatal collisions, but despite this is considered one of the least risky and most acceptable behaviours among drivers, especially young men. The campaign highlights that speed kills and injuries 54 young people every week in the UK.
Dr Gemma Briggs, Professor of Applied Cognitive Psychology at the Open University, said:
“Most drivers consider themselves to be ‘better than average’ at driving. This can make drivers feel that while others shouldn’t speed, their own increased skill means they can handle a bit of extra speed, and every journey completed seemingly without incident for a speeding driver confirms to them that their behaviour is acceptable, even if they endanger others.
“Young drivers also have these biases, but have the added problem of a lack of driving experience. They can’t rely on their previous experience to understand driving situations, so adding other elements to this such as additional speed increases the likelihood of young drivers failing to notice hazards and being involved in a collision.”
THINK! research shows young males underestimate the risks of driving just a few miles per hour over the right speed for the road conditions. The campaign seeks to challenge overconfidence among younger drivers and highlight that while excessive speeding is an issue, it is equally important to not go slightly over the speed limit or drive too fast for the road.
The campaign comes as part of a wide range of safety initiatives, including the recent research project ‘Driver2020’ which considers the different ways to make young drivers safer, more confident and more skilful in their first year of driving.
RAC road safety spokesperson Simon Williams said:
“We know speeding presents a clear and present road safety danger, particularly on country roads where the number of collisions is much greater. We also know that far too many young people are injured or killed every year in car accidents, so hopefully this campaign can bring about some much-needed behavioural change among the nation’s least experienced drivers which helps to keep everyone safe on our rural roads.”
The campaign marks another milestone for the government’s award-winning THINK! campaign, a dedicated road safety awareness campaign which aims to reduce deaths and serious injuries on UK roads.
In the decade that followed the conception of THINK!, road deaths in the UK reduced by 46%. Over the past 5 years, THINK! has primarily targeted young male drivers who are 4 times more likely to be killed or seriously injured on our roads than drivers aged 25 and over.
During this time THINK! campaigns have helped to shift attitudes among this audience towards drink driving, passenger distraction and using a handheld mobile at the wheel.