When is good enough_ near enough by accinent


									  When is Good Enough, Near Enough? Asking when “Enough” is “Enough” in Road
                      Safety Social Marketing Interventions

                        Stephen Dann, Australian National University
                         Marie-Louise Fry, University of Newcastle


Success in social marketing interventions is rarely clear cut, and even more rarely achieved.
Behavioural goals require reinforcement, maintenance and ongoing campaign revision to hold
target populations to approved behaviours. In road safety, one of the dominant contemporary
philosophical frameworks is the “zero tolerance” approach that assumes all road traffic
accidents are preventable. This paper questions the zero acceptable death rate premise on two
grounds. First, it argues that focusing on zero tolerance objectives in social marketing
campaigns such as Queensland’s “Because Enough is Enough” are unrealistic goals for
campaigns that involve behaviors that are influenced strongly by random factors such as
mechanical failure, luck and engineering. Second, the paper questions whether social
marketing can go further in campaigns where adoption and compliance rates are approaching
99.99%. Finally, the paper touches on the conflict inherent between the reality of personal
tragedy within the “failure” rate of social marketing campaigns, and the objective statistical
rate of success of the same campaign. Conclusions as to the future direction for social
marketing goal setting are suggested, along with further research objectives


Road death prevention is listed along with child mortality reduction and environmental
sustainability as priorities for the future of the planet (Brown and D’Souza, 2006; Peder et al,
2004). Over the past thirty years, social marketing has been actively engaged as a mechanism
to stem road death and serious injury. As such, the central focus for many social marketing
campaigns in road safety has centred on influencing any (and all) controllable factors that may
decrease the road users risk of death. For example, numerous campaigns in Queensland
encourage a range of road safe behaviours from reducing speed through to anti-drink driving
and anti-fatigued driving (Queensland Transport, 2006). Other states have implemented
similar campaigns based on responsible road use behaviour targeting ‘preventable’ death
through the application of social marketing frameworks.

              Concept of ‘Preventable Death’: The Legacy of Road Trauma

The core philosophical framework underpinning many road safety interventions, past, present
and future, is that road traffic injuries and death are preventable (UN, 2005). Deaths, injuries
and the concept of prevention have been long associated with motorisation. The first death in
England attributed to automotives was recorded on 17 August 1896. The driver was travelling
at an estimated speed of 8 miles an hour, licences were not required, and witnesses reported
that the car was travelling at tremendous speed. The outcome of the coroner’s inquest returned
a verdict of accidental death and the coroner declared that “This must never happen again”
(ATSB, 2004). For 110 years, road safety theory and practice has been underpinned by the
concept of prevention. From this the notion that road safety can be controlled has grown into
an industry that attempts to prevent road death from “ever happening again”.
A century later ‘preventable death’ continues to remain the key principle underpinning the
current and future vision of road safety in Australia as outlined in the National Road Safety
Strategy 2001-2010 (NRSS). The overriding principle of the NRSS vision for road safety
specifies that “The road toll should not be accepted as inevitable” and states that priority is to
be given to the preservation of human life and the prevention of serious injury (ATC 2000: 3).
According to Smith (2000) the vision and principles of the current NRSS represents a
paradigm for future-based thinking rather than viewing road safety as a series of identifiable
targets as specified in previous road safety plans. Yet, despite the NRSS advocating a
paradigm for future-based thinking, the bulk of the burden for road safety lies with the road
user (Tingvall & Haworth, 1999). Consequently, it is advocated that the road user behave in a
certain way so as to avoid accidents, and be rewarded with “life” versus death or serious
injury. Implicit in this perspective is that humans have the ability to fail, break road rules and
regulations and thus are a key factor responsible for road death and serious injury.

Preventable Death and Behavioural Change

Road safety is often seen as preventable under the hindsight framework of “if only Factor X
was different” where Factor X includes vehicle speed, driver fatigue, alcohol intake, seat belt
usage, airbag usage, road conditions, road engineering and vehicle engineering constraints. In
short, if the driver was driving a different car in a different manner at a different speed under
different conditions, then the crash conditions would not have occurred – particularly if the
vehicle which they collide with was also somewhere else doing something else. Taking this
perspective, there has been an overriding focus on the behavioural components of ‘Factor X’
representing the modification of driver behaviour to correct erroneous behaviour (eg speeding,
drinking, driving tired). Death by road trauma is deemed to have been an action where the
participant had some elective involvement – if the death was inevitable, or certain, it simply
cannot be a “preventable death”.

                        Road Safety Success or Road Safety Failure?

The success of road safety campaigns can be viewed from two perspectives: objective success
versus perceptual failure. Objective success exists within a framework of scientific measure,
and observation-intervention-observation-measured outcomes. In an examination of the
literature, objective levels of road-safety success can be attributed to a concerted series of road
safety campaigns and interventions (media combined with police enforcement). The most
common method to quantify objective success utilised by road safety practitioners is rates of
death per chosen measure (eg: registered vehicles, deaths per 100,000 population).

When Australian road reports commenced in 1925, there were about 700 deaths for 306,000
registered vehicles representing approximately 12 deaths per 100,000 population (FORS,
1998). Excepting periods during the Depression and World War II, the fatality rate statistics
steadily rose to a high in 1970 of 3,798 fatalities and 30.4 deaths per 100,000 population
(FORS, 1998). The period between 1970 and 2002 represents the greatest decline in reduction
of road fatality. In this period the fatality rate dropped from 30.4 to 8.8 deaths per 100,000
population despite an increase in motor vehicle use (ATSB, 2004). Interestingly, the fatality
rate per 10,000 registered vehicles was also reduced from 8.0 in 1970 to 1.4 in 2002 (ATSB,
2004). These figures clearly indicate that road-related death is being prevented at a greater
rate than ever before. Yet, despite statistically demonstrable evidence of positive change, there
is a perception within the transport system, which in turn is translated in the media, that even
one serious injury or death resulting from a road accident represents a “crisis” situation.
Perhaps the crisis lies not with deaths on roads, but with the belief that all road death is the
failure of the interventions to meet ‘zero tolerance’ levels.

In Queensland, the State Government has announced a new road safety campaign based on the
slogan “Enough is Enough”. The campaign aims for an eventual statewide road toll of 300 or
lower in an unspecified time frame (Queensland Government 2006). Of significance to both
road safety campaigners and social marketers is the statement on the campaign website
indicating the campaign goals.

     “The aim of Campaign 300 in 2006 is to reduce the road toll by as much as we
     can. Of course we will never be satisfied as long as people are dying and being
     injured on our roads.” (Queensland Government, 2006)

By way of historical context, the precursor to this campaign was the increasing in the road
death rate from 311 in 2004 to 329 in 2005. At the same time, Queensland’s population
increased from a projected 3.96 million in June 2005 to an estimated population of 4 million in
December 2005, (ABS, 2004; ABS 2006). In context, the road toll for Queensland accounted
for 0.0083% of the population, with the new targeted rate being aimed at reducing the rate to
0.0075%. Table 1 examines the road toll against the state population.

Table 1: Road Death by Year, Population and Adjusted to 2005 Population

 Year            1998       1999       2000       2001       2002       2003       2004       2005
 Population      3472879    3530816    3592443    3668848    3758684    3846435    3926210    4000000
 Road Toll       279        314        317        324        322        310        311        329
 Adjusted Rate   0.0080%    0.0089%    0.0088%    0.0088%    0.0086%    0.0081%    0.0079%    0.0082%
 Adjusted 2005        321        356        353        353        343        322        317        329
(derived from Atkinson (2006) and ABS (2004) and ABS 2006)

The lowest total road toll was in 1998 (279, 0.008%), yet the lowest road toll compared to the
state population was 2004 (311, 0.0079%). If Queensland’s road toll maintains the peak per
capita success rate of 2004, 317 people would be expected to die this calendar year., simply
due to the size of the Queensland population. Although 50 more people died in 2005
compared to 1998, there were approximately 530,000 more people in Queensland. Despite a
demonstrable reduction in per capita fatality rates, the Queensland Government has a stated
objective to regard any death as unacceptable. This has the consequence of committing road
safety social marketing in Queensland will be focused on zero tolerance, with zero death as
the target outcome.

                                          Zero Tolerance

Zero tolerance is a “philosophy of road safety that eventually no one will be killed or seriously
injured within the road transport system”, thus advocates the unacceptability of road death
and/or injury (Tingvall, 1998; Tingvall & Haworth, 1999). Although the concept of zero
tolerance accepts that accidents will occur as people do make errors, it specifically advocates
that crash energy cannot exceed human tolerance. That is, that no foreseeable accident should
be as severe as to cause long term health loss (Tingvall & Haworth, 1999). Despite the
rhetoric that zero tolerance breaks the responsibility of road safety from the road user to
sharing the responsibility between system designers and road users, the National Road Safety
Strategy target for the reduction of road trauma is a 40% drop in number of fatalities per
100,000 population by 2010. This target is expected to save 3,600 lives. By implication, this
strategy assumes that road fatalities are the result of controllable circumstances, and that strict
adherence to ‘best practice’ road behaviour will result in ‘best practice’ outcomes of reduced
or zero level road mortality Currently, road safety interventions have reduced fatality rates to
a level of 1.4 per 10,000 registered vehicles, which translates into figures of 0.014%. To put
this figure into context, 99.986% of registered vehicles are not likely to be involved in a
fatality (i.e.: 99,986 vehicles per 100000 registered vehicles will not be involved in a fatality).

How Near to Zero is Enough?

A comment allegedly attributable to Josef Stalin makes for an unlikely social marketing
benchmark. However, the principle that “A single death is a tragedy, as a million deaths are a
statistic” strongly influences social marketing’s perceived success. Objectively, road safety
has succeeded with 99,986 vehicles per 100,000 not involved in fatal incidents. That said, for
those vehicles what constitutes the personalised embodiment of 0.014%, and the people left
behind by their deaths the road safety system failed. Those deaths are personal tragedies that
are far more powerful than the objective rates of success. In a culture that is pro-existence,
death is not regarded as an acceptable outcome to a social marketing campaign designed to
save lives, and not where millions of tax payer dollars are set aside to fund this “prevention”.
But realistically, at what point will social marketing concede success and move to
maintenance of the 99.986% and allow the resources spent chasing the last 0.014% be moved
to another area where fatalities rates are demonstrably higher? Rates of road trauma death
have declined, and the statistical levels of non compliance can be rounded off to 99% or
99.99% compliance. Despite these levels of objective success, road safety is still perceived as
a problem yet to be solved, with governments increasing funding to pursue the elusive
remaining fraction of a percent compliance.

Perceptual Failure

The concept of “perceptual failure” is the subjective belief that an intervention program has
failed to achieve an acceptable level of success because of the visibility of the incidents of
failure. Road safety is an invisible benefit with road safety failure being a visible and visual
spectacle. Consequently, road trauma has clearer match with Slovic et al.'s (1984) heuristics of
availability, which is how easily a person can recall or imagine the consequences of the risk
behaviour. The failure of road safety is fair more memorable than the success as road trauma
is a visual spectacle that can be easily imagined, vividly recalled, and can skew perceptions. A
single photograph of a wrecked car can portray the inevitable statistical failure in an emotive
and powerful light. It is not simply enough to caption an image of this strength with the words
“1.4 per 100,000 registered vehicles” in order to convince the public that road safety is
succeeding. The campaign may succeed objectively, yet for those who are grieving road
trauma, no level of statistical measure of success will alleviate the loss of a loved one.

                                  Issues for Social Marketing

Managing Expectations

The Queensland Government commitment to zero tolerance for road death means that social
marketing road safety campaigns are committed to failure rates of approximately 300 to 330
deaths per year. At the same time that Queensland Government proudly touts Australia’s
largest population growth rates of an average of 75,000 people over the past three years, there
is an expectation that road trauma rates can be decreased. Adding more people, more vehicles
and more vehicle movements into the mix, and expecting a decrease in fatalities is an
interesting combination. From a pragmatic point of view, social marketing in road safety is
facing a serious set of challenges from the combination of government policy objectives – an
acceptance of zero tolerance whilst increasing population size and vehicle movement.

Repositioning Road Safety Death as Possible and Acceptable

Death is not an elective outcome from life. Although western society has a bias towards life
being regarded as paramount, and death being a function to be avoided (almost at all costs),
death is still a non elective outcome. Focusing on zero tolerance objectives as ideals is a
different circumstance to refusing to accept that risk is inherent in the use of motor vehicles.
The authors do not believe that controllable factors should be negated, nor should campaigns
which can influence, reinforce or improving road safety behaviours be cancelled. The question
this paper raises is simply a matter of determining what level of death is statistically inevitable
from the volume of vehicle movements, population size, and allowing for random chance
factors. Road safety relies on more functional elements that personal behaviour alone –
consequently, social marketing is facing an unrealistic goal of zero death for risky behaviours
that involve negative outcomes that are influenced by random factors such as mechanical
failure, luck and or engineering design. Compliance with the 100% death prevention may
simply reach a glass ceiling of statistical impossibility.

Dealing with Failure at the Individual Level when Succeeding on Aggregate

The second major issue that needs to be openly debated and addressed in social marketing
broadly, and road safety campaigning specifically, is the question of how much market share is
enough? Even assuming that all 330 road deaths in Queensland in 2005 were preventable
incidents, those deaths account for less than 2% of the state’s death toll. The national average
for non-road trauma amongst registered vehicles was 99.986%. When can social marketing
claim success for a share of market that is beyond the reach of most commercial marketers? In
order to claim success, it would be necessary to demarket the visibility of the failure of road
safety campaigns. This would require a reshaping of the treatment of the personal tragedy of
road trauma which is unlikely to receive popular support. Further investigation into the
composition of the response to road safety trauma would be needed to explore what, if any,
aspects of the grieving process could be alleviated through an acceptance of the statistical
inevitability of death – blame, control, wishful thinking that “if only” and other facets of the
process of coming to terms with loss are areas fraught with ethical considerations that requires
much further debate than the space in the paper permits.

Questioning the Assumption of Unacceptable Death

Death is inevitable in life. However, it is not a life event that is actively encouraged in the
Western cultural context. Consequently, admitting that death will occur, and that death in road
safety may not be fully preventable is not necessarily a politically or socially palatable issue.
However, realistically, death is not preventable per se. Instead, preventable death exists as a
functional outcome where the risk of death can be moderate up by higher risk behaviours, or
moderated down through precautionary steps. At no point can death be fully eliminated from
the behavioural context, even with the strictest adherence to key safety messages. The question
for social marketing theory and practice is how to redefine the expectations of the target
market, stakeholders and campaign coordinators to accept a level of negative outcomes,
including deaths, from the investment to save lives?


The authors accept in advance that any proposal which suggests that death is a tolerable
outcome in a field incorporating zero tolerance campaigns is to ignite controversy. That said,
the authors do not accept that death is an alternative to be encouraged, that is, road safety has a
place in reducing incidents of trauma and road incidents that are based on controllable
behaviours. Acceptable death in the context of road safety is that percentage of road trauma
death that can be attributed to luck, compounded factors such as poor luck, poor mechanical
conditions, random factors, environmental intervention and other non controllable
circumstance. If a healthy people can die of heart disease, despite taking due care and
precautions, good drivers can die from road trauma despite taking due care and precautions.
Zero tolerance for preventable behaviour must allow tolerance for the unpreventable incidents
to be a realistic goal for social marketing in road safety.

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