Driving tests

Methods used to encourage sensible lawful driving

The government, police and road authorities traditionally use a variety of fear-based techniques to encourage people to stick to the road rules. Rules and laws are created for safety and/or convenience, and breaking these rules results in some kind of penalty or punishment designed to modify our behaviour. Legislation is created to influence features that vehicle manufacturers must include and advertising campaigns point out the emotional and social harm that can be caused by breaking the rules.

NZTA runs a number of advertising campaigns across multiple media types to increase awareness of the rules. In turn these influence our friends and relatives who apply more pressure to us to stick to the rules.

Road safety advertising topics

There are always multiple campaigns by different agencies covering:

  • Speed awareness (awareness of limits such as the 20kph limit past stopped school buses, or the implications of breaking the speed limit)
  • Drink and drug-affected driving (awareness of limits and consequences)
  • Fatigued driving (awareness of consequences and what to do)
  • Vehicle safety (mobile phone use, checking lights and indicators on your vehicle, etc)
  • Young drivers (risks of inexperience, rules around driving on a restricted or learner licence)
  • Sharing the road (awareness of pedestrians and bikes)
  • Distracted drivers (mobile phone use)

Vehicle technology

Most new vehicle technology development is driven by an increase in comfort, convenience, safety or environmental performance. Some of the technology has a side-effect of helping drivers drive lawfully, for example traction control makes it more difficult for people to perform a burnout and electric handbrakes that operate every wheel’s brake make it almost impossible to do a handbrake turn.

Speed limiters enable a driver to choose to stay under a certain speed while radar can be used to give feedback on following distances to the vehicle in front.

Punishments and penalties

Punishment for breaking driving laws cause one or more of these five results:

  • Fines – generally, the more serious the offence, the more it costs, but fines alone would be less of a deterrent to wealthy people (which is why some countries, like Finland, fine based on income, also called a ‘day fine‘)
  • Demerit points – more serious fines attract more demerit points which put the driver’s licence at risk, but minor fines don’t attract enough points to seriously inconvenience a driver
  • Restrictions – accruing enough demerit points or committing certain offences (e.g. drink driving) results in a loss of driving privileges via disqualification
  • Inconvenience – the results of some transgressions could mean court appearances and additional expenses, e.g. lawyers, loss of insurance no-claims bonus, etc
  • Embarrassment – some offences are newsworthy, and now there’s the internet the news stays around forever and is easy to search

Environmental pressure

Fuel use and engine tuning affects carbon emissions. Aggressive driving, and driving a vehicle which would fail emissions tests, affects the environment. Government restrictions on emissions create a level of compliance that must be met in Warrant of Fitness checks. Social pressure to reduce pollution modifies how people drive and what people drive, e.g. the increasing number of hybrid vehicles on our roads.

Taxation on fuel

While the cost of a barrel of oil is one of the factors in the price of petrol and diesel it’s not the main factor: tax is. Fuel in New Zealand is quite expensive compared to some countries and awareness of fuel consumption can modify a person’s driving behaviour to be less aggressive. It can also encourage them to keep their vehicle in the best tune possible which reduces engine emissions.

Data logging and dashcams

Some insurance companies are using apps and data logging to encourage certain types of less risky driving behaviour. The apps can monitor acceleration and braking, total distance travelled, where and at what time the travel occurred, and other metrics. Discounts can be offered for staying within the rules. In other countries, this is called black-box insurance or telematics.

Dashcams are another way of logging data. Some insurance companies encourage use of cameras in order to assess driver behaviour and to provide a record of how the driver was driving. It reduces insurance fraud and it helps establish who was to blame in an accident. It also highlights if the driver was breaking any rules.

Insurance companies can refuse to pay for damage, remove or reduce a person’s no-claims bonus, increase the insurance premium, or even refuse to insure them if they are proved to have driven outside of the law.

Road design and layout

Road design to influence driving behaviour can include obvious features to restrict certain driving, such as speed bumps, speed tables, chicanes and other traffic-calming measures. Changes in road layout such as narrowing the road to make it feel less safe (this tends to make people drive more slowly), or using markings to increase awareness of speed, are more subtle ways of influencing driving style.

Community programs and education

Many community programs offer free or heavily discounted help for people who are financially unable to afford to take the driving test. This reduces the number of untrained, unlicensed drivers on the roads.

The future of driving within the law

There are other options that could be used more extensively, such as gamification. Gamification is where a certain number of ‘game mechanics’ such as points, rewards and badges are awarded for completing an action or behaving in a certain way. There could be reward points given for consistently staying under the speed limit, for example.

Ultimately autonomous vehicles will drive within the limits – we will simply enter a destination and allow the vehicle to drive us there while adhering to the rules.

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Darren has written over 3000 articles about driving and vehicles, plus almost 500 vehicle reviews and numerous driving courses. Connect with him on LinkedIn by clicking the name above

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