Is There Value in Show and Tell? Creating a Salient General Deterrent Effect Through Overt & Covert Enforcement Technology

Verity Truelove, Kayla Stefanidis, O. Oviedo-Trespalacios

Research output: Book/ReportReportScientific

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This report addresses two prominent risky driving behaviors, namely mobile phone use while driving and speeding, within the context of road safety research. Using a handheld phone while driving significantly heightens crash risk and impairs driver performance, manifesting in increased braking response time, augmented steering wheel corrections (Collet et al., 2010), elevated reaction time, and lane departure (Lipovac et al., 2017; Oviedo-Trespalacios et al., 2016). Speeding similarly escalates crash risk and severity (Kloeden et al., 1997; Kloeden et al., 2001). Due to the severe consequences of these behaviors in terms of fatalities, injuries, and societal costs, governments worldwide have implemented policies and enforcement initiatives to dissuade drivers from engaging in such actions. Automated cameras have emerged as a primary method for curbing speeding behavior, and several Australian jurisdictions, including New South Wales, Queensland, and Victoria, have also introduced mobile phone detection cameras to combat the increasing prevalence of mobile phone use while driving. The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) is scheduled to fully implement these cameras in October 2023.

However, the implementation of these cameras can take diverse forms. Some enforcement cameras adopt an overt approach, making them highly visible to drivers through the use of bright paint and/or signage. In contrast, a covert approach has been employed for some enforcement cameras, rendering them inconspicuous without bright paint or overt signage. Despite these different approaches, a definitive standard for achieving lasting deterrent effects remains elusive. This paper presents findings from a project funded by the ACT Road Safety Fund, aiming to identify the most salient road rule camera enforcement approach (overt, covert, or a combination of both) for creating a strong deterrent effect against mobile phone use while driving and speeding violations.

Two studies were conducted to address this objective. The first study involved focus groups to gain in-depth qualitative insights into the perceived advantages and disadvantages of various camera enforcement methods, as well as their potential impact on attitudes toward road safety, high-risk behaviors, and road rule compliance. These focus groups, consisting of 58 participants across Australia, generated four enforcement-type scenarios for the subsequent quantitative study. The second study, a cross-sectional survey of 1168 participants across Australia, aimed to examine how different types of exposure to road rule enforcement influence perceptual deterrence, offending behaviors, and awareness of the broader road safety issue. Results from both studies indicate that a combination of overt and covert enforcement cameras is the most effective strategy for reducing speeding and mobile phone use while driving. Furthermore, personal factors, such as age and gender, influence the impact of different camera signage types.

The implications of these findings suggest that a comprehensive approach involving both overt and covert cameras is essential to maximize deterrence, technology acceptance, and the reduction of risky driving behaviors. Recommendations include deploying overt cameras on high-risk roads to enhance rule compliance and using warning signs in conjunction with covert cameras to increase drivers' perceptions of being monitored. Additionally, advertising campaigns should complement enforcement cameras to raise awareness of the risks associated with these behaviors. Continued evaluation and vigilance regarding the effectiveness of these cameras should consider driver adaptation and avoidance strategies.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationCanberra, Australia
PublisherUniversity of the Sunshine Coast
Commissioning bodyACT Road Safety Fund
Number of pages47
Publication statusPublished - 2023


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