Motorised countries have more fatal road crashes in rural areas than in urban areas. In Australia, over two thirds of the population live in urban areas, yet approximately 55 percent of the road fatalities occur in rural areas (ABS, 2006; Tziotis, Mabbot, Edmonston, Sheehan & Dwyer, 2005). Road and environmental factors increase the challenges of rural driving, but do not fully account for the disparity. Rural drivers are less compliant with recommendations regarding the “fatal four” behaviours of speeding, drink driving, seatbelt non-use and fatigue, and the reasons for their lower apparent receptivity for road safety messages are not well understood.
Countermeasures targeting driver behaviour that have been effective in reducing road crashes in urban areas have been less successful in rural areas (FORS, 1995). However, potential barriers to receptivity for road safety information among rural road users have not been systematically investigated.
This thesis aims to develop a road safety countermeasure that addresses three areas that potentially affect receptivity to rural road safety information. The first is psychological barriers of road users’ attitudes, including risk evaluation, optimism bias, locus of control and readiness to change. A second area is the timing and method of intervention delivery, which includes the production of a brief intervention and the feasibility of delivering it at a “teachable moment”. The third area under investigation is the content of the brief intervention. This study describes the process of developing an intervention that includes content to address road safety attitudes and improve safety behaviours of rural road users regarding the “fatal four”.
The research commences with a review of the literature on rural road crashes, brief interventions, intervention design and implementation, and potential psychological barriers to receptivity. This literature provides a rationale for the development of a brief intervention for rural road safety with a focus on driver attitudes and behaviour.
The research is then divided into four studies. The primary aim of Study One and Study Two is to investigate the receptivity of rural drivers to road safety interventions, with a view to identifying barriers to the efficacy of these strategies.