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8.3 Other Means of Encouraging Road users to Behave According to the Rules

Road User Non-compliance

In addressing non-compliance with rules, it is important to consider the specifics of each situation. There are many possible reasons why road users do not comply with the rules, and more than one of them may be relevant in any particular situation. These different reasons require different strategies to encourage greater compliance.

Understanding required behaviours

It is possible that some road users may not understand what is required of them or what the appropriate behaviour is in certain situations. In some cases, this may even be the majority of drivers. This is particularly likely to be true of socially disadvantaged groups in the community, especially where literacy is an issue. It is also likely to be true of new situations; the case of the introduction of roundabouts in Australia and North America is a good example.

Depending on the situation, this can be remedied by actions such as:

  • locally-based education campaigns to reduce problems at particular locations;
  • jurisdiction-wide advertising and publicity to address system-wide issues.

Knowing what behaviours are required in a particular situation

Even when road users have a good understanding of the road rules and traffic control devices, there may be situations or locations where they are unsure about the correct driving procedures. These situations generally arise in unfamiliar situations, e.g. when a site has unusual geometry, or where drivers find themselves sharing the road with unfamiliar things such as slow, oversize vehicles, or herds of animals being driven along the road. Ideally, a road user’s training and experience would have taught them to behave safely and wait until any unclear/unusual situation is resolved so that they can move or overtake safely. Over time, it would be hoped that situations with unusual or misleading geometry would be eliminated by the progressive treatment of hazardous locations as determined by crash records or risk analysis. In the meantime, care should be taken to ensure that correct guidance is given to all road users by means of signage, lighting, line marking and delineation. It is important to ensure that the package of guidance measures is properly understood, particularly if unfamiliar signs are part of the treatment.

Credibility of rules and procedures

Rules and procedures are unlikely to be followed if they do not appear to be credible to road users, e.g. pedestrian reluctance to comply with ‘do not walk’ signals at crossings during periods of low traffic flow, or reluctance of drivers to comply with roadwork speed limit signs when it is obvious that no roadwork is in progress. The risk is that road users may continue to act in this way when hazards are in fact present, so that pedestrians cross unexpectedly in front of motor vehicles at night, or drivers continue to drive above the limit when roadworks have recommenced. While it is difficult to apply countermeasures in the first situation, close attention to the management of the worksite (e.g. by covering up the speed limit signs at the end of the day’s work) goes a long way to help in the second situation.

Figure 8.20 - Narrow road way may lead to centerline driving © ARRB Group

Customary uses of road space for other than transport

Many communities use the road space for purposes other than transport and in ways which conflict with road safety goals. In LMICs, roadside commerce is entrenched and is an important element in the economy. Street play has been a customary use of road space in many UK cities. Reducing speed limits in selected local areas in the UK to 20 mph (32 km/h), in conjunction with supporting traffic calming measures, has been very effective in reducing child pedestrian casualties. An early evaluation of these schemes indicated a 60% reduction in all injury crashes, and a 67% reduction in child injury crashes (Webster & Mackie, 1996). Creative solutions are called for in accommodating roadside commerce and increasing traffic flows in LMICs.

Social norms and peer pressure

Apart from the official system of rules and regulations, the road safety culture of a community has a strong bearing on how road users behave and the resulting road safety outcomes. For example, peer pressure is an important mechanism for maintaining social norms or in some cases, engaging in behaviour that deviates from the norm.

Age-related changes throughout a person’s life-span

The psychological and physical changes that people experience throughout their life-span have a profound influence on their ability to cope with the road system. If roads are to cater for the whole of the community, road designers and managers should have an awareness of the more salient age-related changes. Some of the main points are:

  • Young children lack the cognitive abilities to interact with motor traffic. This is compounded by their small stature, making it difficult for them to see and be seen.
  • Learner drivers are very safe while they are under supervision, but have a very high crash rate as soon as they begin solo driving. Swedish work shows that extending the period of supervised practice before going solo reduced crashes in the first year of solo driving by 46% (Gregersen, 2000).
  • As drivers grow older, physical and cognitive abilities may begin to decline. Older drivers can be supported to keep driving safely by means of adaptive aids and restrictions on driving, and by bigger and brighter signs and markings. Older pedestrians may benefit from treatments such as extended crossing times at pedestrian signals, brighter lighting, and improving surface evenness on footpaths.

Short-term impairment – inattentiveness, fatigue, alcohol and drugs

Short-term impairment can have disastrous effects on driving. Amongst the most frequent causes of impairment are:

  • distraction;
  • drowsiness;
  • alcohol-affected driving;
  • alcohol-affected pedestrians;
  • drugs.

Coping with disability

Some forms of disability make it difficult for individuals to fully comply with road rules. Safe System principles require that drivers and riders be capable and proficient; and many jurisdictions have basic physical requirements which must be met before licences to drive or ride a motor vehicle are issued. The most widespread issue is eyesight, and elementary screening to ensure adequate visual acuity (clarity) at a specified distance is a usual part of the testing procedure. Few conditions prevent people from driving altogether, as many people with disabilities, even serious disabilities, are able to drive satisfactorily with the assistance of driving aids that help them overcome the limitations imposed by their disability. No such screening processes apply to pedestrians or cyclists. Many developed countries have anti-discrimination legislation that requires transport providers to ensure that disabilities do not impede access. On the road network, some treatments that are provided to meet these requirements are:

  • audible signals at signalised pedestrian crossings;
  • distinctive patterns on the footpath surface that can be felt by a mobility cane or through the sole of the foot;
  • ramps or lifts to accommodate wheelchair users, including ramps at pedestrian crossing points set into the kerb.

Achieving Better Compliance

Achieving better compliance with legal requirements and established driving procedures can be considered under the four broad headings below. Each section concludes with a brief consideration of how the infrastructure can be used or adapted to support the activity discussed in the section.


Road safety education is generally considered to relate to programmes delivered in school.

The European Community (EC) ROSE25 project (Road Safety Education in all 25 EU Member States) involved workshops and consultations throughout the EC membership, culminating in a booklet which summarises the essential elements of good practice in road safety education. It focuses on face-to-face interactions with school age children. The key emphasis of road safety education should be on:

  • promotion of knowledge and understanding of traffic rules and situations;
  • improvement of skills through training and experience;
  • strengthening and/or changing attitudes towards risk awareness, personal safety and the safety of other road users;
  • following the ten key steps to the successful implementation of road safety education that are outlined in the document (Rose 25, 2005).

Although training and education should prepare drivers to ‘expect the unexpected’, there is a limit to which this can be achieved, and it is clearly not possible to train drivers to deal with unexpected situations. The best solution is therefore to minimise the number of non-standard situations through progressive improvements to the network, and apply self-explaining roads principles as widely as possible, and thus ensure that the PIARC Human Factor Guideline’s three rules are followed in all situations.

Driver and rider training and testing

Driver and motorcycle rider training refers specifically to the process of preparing people for their ‘careers’ as drivers or riders. This entails not only mastering basic car control skills and a working knowledge of road rules and procedures, but the all-important skill of ‘reading the road’ and anticipating the actions of other road users. Road User Non Compliance in Other Means of Encouraging Road users to Behave According to the Rules cited work which showed that the more supervised driving practice a learner driver had, the safer they were after they began to drive solo. Many jurisdictions have introduced, or are about to introduce, requirements for extended supervised driving practice before taking a practical driving test.

A review of road safety measures in the European Community countries recommended reinforcing formal driver training by encouraging accompanied driving, and making advice and information available to the accompanying drivers to help them maximise their effectiveness (SUPREME, 2007). Good practice in driver and rider testing involves test drives or rides over nominated routes, which include all or most of the critical situations that the licensing authority deems are necessary to demonstrate competence, and that are assessed as being approximately equal in terms of their difficulty for test candidates. Licensing authorities should consult with road managers when identifying test routes to ensure that they choose appropriate routes that do not cause undue interference with other traffic or expose candidates or testing officers to avoidable risk.


Road authorities engage in publicity campaigns for a variety of reasons. The PIARC publication Best Practices for Road Safety Campaigns (PIARC, 2012a) provides an overview of this area, based on a literature review linked to a survey of selected PIARC members. The key messages relating to the delivery of campaigns are:

  • Behaviour change is a long-term commitment.
  • Integration of publicity campaigns with other activities, such as enforcement, adds to effectiveness.
  • It is important to clearly identify the audience and tailor the message to address the dynamics of the particular behaviour in question.
  • Choosing the correct medium to reach the target audience is essential; with age being the most important factor determining media habits.
  • Fear appeals need to be used with caution as they may be dismissed when they do not accord with personal experience.
  • Evaluation is essential and should be considered as an integral part of the campaign plan.

Roadside advertising space should be available for the display of safety messages, either by having some roadside advertising space reserved for this purpose or through the purchase of space at commercial rates. Where available, consideration should be given to the limited use of variable message signs to display safety messages that are appropriate to the time and place, e.g. displaying drink driving reminders in the early evening on weekends when many drivers and riders are heading out for the evening.


A good general source on enforcement appears to be the European Transport Safety Council’s (ETSC) publication, Traffic Law Enforcement across the EU: Tackling the Three Main Killers on Europe’s Roads (ETSC, 2011). This is a compendium of best practice, based on member countries’ experience. A comprehensive set of recommendations is provided for tackling each of the three main killers – speeding, drink driving and non-use of seatbelts – as well as general guidance on planning, target setting, and general principles of effective enforcement.

Much progress has been made with automated enforcement in recent years, in particular with speed enforcement. Significant changes in behavior have occurred where automatic enforcement has been vigorously applied. Where necessary, space should be created to allow enforcement operations to be conducted where they are likely to have a major deterrent effect. The raised lay-bys provided on UK motorways for speed enforcement are a good example. Positioning of speed cameras or other automated devices needs to be carefully considered to coordinate with other infrastructure where possible (e.g. positioning point to point speed cameras on existing gantries).

Reference sources

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