Transport for London has put out a new road safety video, and it’s weird. A crash victim gives a very matter-of-fact account of his lethal injuries as paramedics tend to him on the street:
My friend Neil Hopkins sent this to my attention on Twitter with the question, “Will it change behaviour?”
I’m just not sure. As I’ve written here many times before, negative “shock” advertising is considered less and less effective when it comes to behaviour change. This one is more nuanced, with its ironic “live and learn” coda, but it still asks a lot of the viewer.
Aggressing driving is a serious problem, whether done by cars or motorbikes. The big difference for bikers is that they are the ones who have everything to lose in a crash. But changing aggressing driving habits means putting out a message that will not only reach drivers as they sit at home on their computer or TV, but will pop up in their minds when they’re enjoying the adrenaline thrill of racing down the road.
This is what makes social marketing so difficult. Often, you’re asking someone not to do something that feels really good — whether it’s fast driving, or drugs, or unprotected casual sex — by presenting a rational or emotional consequence that isn’t so nice. The power of pleasure is such that we humans often willfully disregard well-known risks in its pursuit. Or we simply engage in denial, telling ourselves that we won’t end up one of the unlucky few who pay the price.
“Will it change behaviour?” Probably not. In my opinion, it’s too subtle to shock yet too shocking to act as positive reinforcement.