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Distracted driving prevention: an analysis of recent UK campaigns

The purpose of this study was to examine the message features of fear-based approaches in current British road safety campaigns directed at distracted driving, specifically mobile phone use while driving. Authors took a qualitative approach to conduct a content analysis for nine British web-based road safety campaigns. Both message content and structure were analyzed.

Both nationwide and local campaigns were examined. Key words used to identify the campaigns included in the study were mobile phones and road safety. To identify local campaigns, the key terms were paired with the name of each county and city within the United Kingdom (n = 66 cities, 70 counties). Only campaigns with fear-based approaches were included in this analysis. A fear-based approach was defined as a campaign containing messages about the negative consequences of a target behaviour, specifically if the campaign included messages about the dangers, negative consequences, or seriousness of mobile phone use while driving.

Testing was conducted with 115 students (68% male) aged 19-42 years old to determine whether the campaigns contained threatening communication. Six of the 12 online videos were randomly selected and shown to participants. After each video, participants completed a questionnaire to characterize the content of the videos and report their emotional reaction.

Of the nine videos selected for analysis, six were nationwide and three were local campaigns. All campaigns targeted general driving populations in the United Kingdom. Results showed threat-based content occurred 87.3% of the time across the nine selected campaigns. All websites and videos contained severity content (i.e., dangers and negative consequences). Fear-based content was primarily communicated through the mention of legal, financial, and physical harm. In contrast, efficacy messages communicated success stories and encouragement but were always presented after the fear-based messages.


Diegelmann, S., Ninaus, K., & Terlutter, R. (2020). Distracted driving prevention: an analysis of recent UK campaigns. Journal of Social Marketing.

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