ARSRPE Conference Paper Database

The Effectiveness of Threat-only messages versus Threat-and-Efficacy Messages in Anti-Speeding Advertisements

Thornton, Jennifer, Rossiter, Professor John R. (Peer reviewed)

Road Safety Across Cultures


This study investigates whether road safety authorities should take a new approach in road safety advertisements. Threat appeal advertisements that also demonstrate or advise drivers how to drive safely could be more effective than those ads that stimulate only feelings of fear, shock or grief (Witte and Allen 2000). In this study, we compare the effectiveness of threat-only TV commercials with the same commercials to which an efficacy recommendation to reduce driving speed has been added. An advertising experiment was undertaken to test four pairs of anti-speeding TV advertisements, and a control TV advertisement unrelated to road safety. Each pair of anti-speeding TV advertisements consisted of a High Threat/Low Efficacy version and a High Threat/High Efficacy version. The respondents in the test were 17 to 28 year-old drivers from southern Sydney and Wollongong. The respondents (N =180 total; n = 20 per ad), were quota sampled to provide subgroups of young male speeders, and nonspeeders, and young female speeders and nonspeeders. The dependent measure was the AVST10, which is a test that involves getting drivers to view 10 video scenes of a person driving a vehicle in real driving situations. After each driving scene, drivers are asked to estimate the speed that they themselves would use in that situation. Analysis of variance was used to examine differences between the effectiveness of the anti-speeding ads on the AVST10 by gender and speeder classification. The results of the advertising experiment indicated that the High Threat/High Efficacy ads produced lower (better) AVST10 speed scores than High Threat/Low Efficacy messages. The largest effect of these High Threat/High Efficacy messages in reducing speed is for the high-risk road user group of young male speeders. However, for the total sample, this result was obtained only directionally and was not statistically significant.