Road Safety News

New training course will explore behavioural change techniques

Wednesday 11th March 2015

The Road Safety GB Academy has unveiled a new one-day training course for road safety practitioners focusing on the issue of behavioural change.

The course is designed to give road safety practitioners an insight into behavioural change models and techniques, and how road safety interventions can be developed that will look at the underlying issues associated with risk related behaviour, and ultimately collisions.

It is intended for both experienced and new road safety practitioners and can be used as a pre-cursor to, or an extension of, the highly successful Road Safety Practitioner Foundation Course which was introduced in 2013.

Cheryl Evans, head of training at the Road Safety GB Academy, said: “Many road safety interventions are based around improving road user skills, but there are other factors that must be considered such as social context, personality, and journey related issues that cause road users to fail to cope with their environment.

“What and how we teach in road safety is extremely important if we are to ensure we do not create unintended consequences with our road using public. 

“This course explores how we as human beings create our own realities based on our experiences, how we make decisions, how we interpret messages, how we need to deal with conflicting multiple attitudes, how we are often in conflict with our own beliefs, and how we are influenced by many other factors.

“Behavioural change is key in making significant improvements to the way people use our roads, and in making significant reductions in road related incidents and injuries.”

The one-day Behavioural Change Course is assessment based and will soon be accredited by City and Guilds.

For more information about the course contact Ian Edwards on 078919 03749 or Alan Kennedy on 07738 946139, or Cheryl Evans, head of training at the Road Safety GB Academy.


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You are quite right Chris there is some confusion between stopping distance and following distance and you have fallen into that trap.

If you are presuming that following distance is a safe distance then it has to be the compete stopping distance and not as many presume to be only the thinking distance or similar. If you look carefully at the HC 126 it states that one should be or rather leave enough space between you and the vehicle in front so that you can pull up safely if it suddenly slows down OR STOPS...... THAT MEANS, READING IT RIGHT.... IF IT SUDDENLY SLOWS OR..... IF IT SUDDENLY STOPS.

Many drivers presume that if say one is travelling at 40 ft behind a vehicle and at the same speed of say 40 mph then if that front vehicle puts on its brakes, never mind for the moment about thinking distance and presume that the following vehicle brakes at exactly the same time they will both come to a stop at the same time and be the same distance apart.

Fortunately vehicles rarely have to emergency brake but generally brake due to other contributory factors re the road ahead. Many do not come to a standstill so in most cases no collisions occur.

However if there is a delay in the actual activation of the brakes then we have a distance problem. The 40 ft following on will not be enough. Further, and this is what S126 is getting at, if the vehicle in front comes to an IMMEDIATE STOP for whatever reason (possibly a collision with car in front or vehicle emerging from junction (no brakes shown and complete stand still) then, under those circumstances if the following driver is not the full braking distance behind he or she will not be able to react and stop in time to avoid colliding with it. That's why the HC 126 states that one should be the full stopping distance apart. Not any other distance.
Bob Craven lancs Space is Safe Campaigner.

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I don't have the time to get unduly embroiled in the discussion. But just reflecting on Chris's assumption that there may be a link somewhere between following and stopping distance the logic is fairly basic to my (simple?) mind. HC 126 says you must be able to stop in the distance you can see to be clear. So any situation where one vehicle goes into the back of another, then clearly this was not the case. Emergency stops for learners probably have little bearing because they are anticipating the action they will be taking and are focused exclusively on that - and there is nothing relating to being able to stop in time if things suddenly go awry in front. In a normal driving environment (whatever that might actually mean) most are not expecting to do an emergency stop so they will need a second (or two) to collect thoughts and decide on the action to take. Things only have to go pear shaped once in a lifetime and that could be the end of it; viz the seven people burned to death in the M5 crash at Taunton - let alone the 51 injured most of which will have been mentally traumatised for life from the experience. And add to that those who survived with various levels of permanent injury. To repeat: It only needs to happen once and that can be the end of the story - literally. And yet the majority of drivers are vulnerable to just that scenario. It is simultaineously both frightening and sad. But it continues and RS still hasn't got the handle on it.
Nigel ALBRIGHT, Taunton.

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I'm sure there is a tenuous link somewhere between stopping distances and behavioral change techniques.

There seems to be a bit of confusion between following and stopping distances. We don't need to leave the overall stopping distance between us and a vehicle we are following traveling in the same direction at the same speed. I like Duncans idea but of course that only applies to stopping on an empty road and doing so to avoid a stationary object.
Chris Harrison

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Seven seconds to stop from 70mph is not at all unreasonable when you consider that a bike might be going round a corner with a significant lean angle when the precipitating event occurs. Even then if real-world research shows that it is unreasonable in all conditions and all situations it is always better to err on the side of caution!

The very name 'emergency stop' gives us a bit of a clue that the situation that has been encountered is potentially life-threatening. It is the rarity of these situations however that makes them really dangerous, because the rarer the encounter the less likeley it is for a driver to have a skilled motor programme available to manage it. You could say that emergency situations turn experts into learners and so our expectation must be of how a learner would handle a situation and not how an expert would handle it.
Duncan MacKillop. No surprise - No accident.

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Quite right Nigel. Lack of Space is as important if not as important as speed when it comes to road Safety. There is little point in reducing speed if the distance between vehicle reduces also. We will be in the same dangerous close vehicle scenario. The Danger of Close proximity to other vehicles is something that is the primary focus of my Campaign.

Duncan might be right (New Thinking). I would certainly not argue that 7 seconds to brake at 70mph may be unrealistic and 3 seconds at 30mph. However I do concur that the 2/3rds of a second thinking distance being somewhat unrealistic.

Matt. The 7 seconds suggested by Duncan is time only but has a direct relationship to the full stopping distance as the vehicle is in an emergency brake situation down from that speed to zero in 7 seconds. As it progressively brakes it travels down the speed table and so doesn't go anywhere near the 219 meters you suggested. It actually may come down to something nearer the distance in the Highway Code at 96 meters.
Bob Craven Lancs... Space is Safe Campaigner

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No doubt I will shot down in flames (yet again) but it is no wonder that RS often seems to wallow in analysis, come the well known cliche, 'analyse to paralyse'.
It really should not take a rocket scientist or statistics to prove that attitude determines behaviour - just observe what you see on the roads - and therefore if you want to change behavour in order to improve safety, which has been so blatenly obvious for so long, then just get on a do something about it - government et al.

I havent't read the minutae of discussion about the 2 second rule, but it seems there are people out there even challenging the value of good spacing for safer road behaviour. Police driving schools used to recommend (as you will have read before) 3-4 seconds in a following position or, as one police driving instructor used to say to his students, 'Whatever the circumstances could you pull the vehicle up UNDRAMATICALLY?' It is so blatently the case that space and time are a key to safety in so many instances. So anyone at 2 seconds or less is like the next crash waiting to happnen - and anyone at 1 second or less is in suicide mode. So, seriously, anyone countering that argument in my book seriously needs to review their basic understanding on road safety. It's back to HC 126 I'm afraid; probably the most important item in the whole of the HC when talking about road safety.
Nigel ALBRIGHT, Taunton.

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I'm not surprised there's no supporting evidence - what were the DFT thinking? It would be like motorists being told 'always try and drive at 'x' mph.'
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

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Don't think I dismissed the two second rule Hugh, in fact I said that it had a high degree of utility. What I did say was that there is no supporting evidence for it.
Duncan MacKillop. No surprise - No accident.

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I was pleased to read your dismissal of the two second rule Duncan. Apart from very low speeds, it doesn't apply and as it originated from the DfT they should 'Think!' about whether it should still be promoted. 'Keep a safe distance' is just as good a message. It's similar to the chevrons on the c/way with accompanying signs saying 'keep two chevrons apart' - this might be vaild at low speeds but certainly not at higher speeds.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

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One of the joys of being an inventor and innovator Bob is that you come up with ideas that nobody in the world has ever come up with before. Because of that there is usually no direct supporting evidence because that would mean that somebody else had already had the idea! What there is however is a huge quantity of indirect evidence that can be called in support of the idea. You could start by reading the section on the 'surprise horizon' in the book Mind Driving by Stephen Haley. As for other evidence I can suggest a happy day or two trawling through my reading list at and checking out the extensive archive at

It also helps to have a mate who was the senior braking systems engineer at AP-Lockheed and who knows more about brakes and how people use and abuse them than just about anybody else on the planet.

You also have to consider that there is no supporting evidence for the two second rule for following another vehicle yet people instinctively understand that this rule has a high degree of utility. So it is with my 'one in ten' rule, you have an immediate sense that the rule is correct, but you have no idea why. If anybody would like to fund some research on this however I'm sure that you would soon find some willing university department that would love to have a go at it.
Duncan MacKillop. No surprise - No accident

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Reaction times depend - perhaps fairly obviously - on whether we were expecting something to happen to react to in the first place and that is the problem with some drivers/riders. If you continually expect and be prepared to have to suddenly stop, you've got a much better chance of doing so rather than be taken by surprise. 'No surprise, no accident' as Duncan says. Driving/riding in 'ready to stop' mode is a good maxim on the road.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

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I think what Matt was asking for was verification of your statements as in a paper or other scientific journal etc. upon which you base your principals or arguments. Something published perhaps. As Space is my interest I also would like to be able to read such an article. It may help my cause.
Bob Craven Lancs...Space is Safe Campaigner

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Certainly Matt.
The Highway Code makes all sorts of incorrect assumptions on thinking distance and the sustained -'G' over the stopping event. My research was all based on motorcycle performance and so there may be some improvements on dynamically stable vehicles such as cars etc. Thinking distance in the table is said to be based on the average perception time of 0.75 seconds which is about right for a primed brain, but nowhere near right in the real world in response to an unexpected event. Various experts, accident investigators etc have the typical perception-response time at between 1.5 and 2.5 seconds which makes a lot more sense when you consider that a driver may well be attending to a distractor task at the time of first onset.

The table also assumes a sustained -'G' of -.72 which makes no sense as it doesn't account for the amount of time it takes to reach peak -'G' during the event. It is more in line with most research results that the average person might manage an overall sustained -'G' of around -.5 with only a momentary peak at a higher value. The highway code values are also for dry tarmac and good tyres and even then the advice is that these distances depend greatly on a considerable number of factors, uphill, downhill, tiredness etc.

The main issue with all this is expertise at emergency stopping, something that most drivers are spectacularly lacking! The problem is that each exposure makes an event safer, but exposure to the real-world need to perform emergency stops is very rare so very few people get the exposure they need to build expertise.

The 1 second/10mph value encompasses all of the variables in the emergency stopping process and provides a good average value for a driver with an average level of expertise (i.e zero). It's also a doddle to remember as the required numbers are actually written on the speedo which is perhaps the only time a speedo has any value as an aid to road safety.

Bob asked for a simple way of ensuring drivers allow enough space and you can't get much simpler than this.
Duncan MacKillop. No surprise - No accident.

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Duncan, can I ask what the scientific theory behind the one second per 10 mph is?

219 m total stopping distance at 70 mph (7 x 31.3 m/s) seems rather excessive, particularly when you consider the Highway Code suggests 96 m.
Matt Staton, Cambridgeshire

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Absolutely right Bob, very few drivers can judge a distance and that's because perceptually there's no such thing as distance. All the brain knows about is the angular displacement of objects on the retina in 2D space, the distance between those objects in 3d space (the real world) has no effect on how the brain processes the data. In a moving environment all the brain cares about is TTA or the time to arrival of an object at a particular point in space which is translated as the time it takes to change an object's angular displacement on the retina.

What the brain actually processes is the time to stop not the distance to stop and luckily it's broadly the same for all of us no matter what type of car or bike we are using at the time. The formula for this is dead easy and it is that your 'stop horizon' is one second down the road for every 10mph of speed. Do 30mph and the real world distance you would cover at 30mph in three seconds is the total distance it would require to stop. That takes all the reaction times, thinking times and stopping times into account with just one simple piece of information.

It's dead easy to teach as well. Just take a student out and get them to count to the number of seconds to match the speed. At twenty they count one-one thousand, two-one thousand and as the last syllable leaves their lips that represents the real-world distance they would cover if they needed to stop in a hurry. Repeat the exercise several times at various different speeds and their brain will quickly get the hang of equating time with real-world distance. The best fun is to take them up to 70 mph on the motorway and get them to repeat the exercise. There's usually a stunned silence when they realise how long seven seconds actually is and how far they have travelled since they started counting!
Duncan MacKillop. No surprise - No accident.

Agree (5) | Disagree (2)

If we are talking about behavioural changes it would be beneficial to look at other disciplines. At the moment the in vogue following for many, particularly women, is Mindfulness. In Mindfulness it says "If you wish to be recognised (ie not ignored) First allow yourself to be Seen. Not bad advice for anyone on our road system. By changing bad behaviour or influencing others' mindset we can hopefully make changes that would benefit all road users.
Bob Craven Lancs....Space is Safe Campaigner

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One of the reasons why we make bad decisions on our own is that sometimes we have no instructions or experience to guide us. An example is the distances drivers give or dont give as they case may be. Very few drivers can judge a distance. Maybe someone who regularly runs the 100 meters can but that is because of continual training. Otherwise most of us would be lost. So when we are told...if we are told, to keep a safe distance do we really know what that safe distance is? No,the general driving public do not. We end up driving like dodgem cars, in close proximity and become a collision just waiting to happen.

Fortunately many drivers do give sufficient distance and they remain safe and help to make it safer for those that don't. However there are those who have no idea what I am writing about and by being given an easy to understand explanation as to why distance is important and then giving simple guidelines that they can work easily with. Then and only then will they begin to be as safe as most other drivers. As a result the roads will see a greater and better flow rate, less hassle and aggravation, junctions will be safer, visibility improved, conspicuity better, drivers become less fraught, less road rage and fewer incidents and collision.

Space is Safe.
Bob Craven Lancs....Space is Safe Campaigner

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Thanks Ruth
I've looked at your link for evaluation but this follows a familiar pattern. Your course asks good questions and may well provide insight and promote practical action. The evaluation site also says all the right things but, when it comes to actual evaluations, tests are not designed properly and methods are inaccurate and/or incomplete.

I don't advocate or argue against interventions, I simply want to raise the standard of evidence. Is it possible for you to consider implementing scientific trials?
Dave Finney, Slough

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I attended the Road Safety Practitioner's course last year and found it to be an excellent investment of my time in better understanding the issues around road safety education.

As an "outsider" then my perspective was perhaps different from many "within" the discipline. However, the course gave me a better understanding of both influencing behaviour change and measuring the effects of road safety interventions.

I would recommend it for anyone involved or interested in road safety education.
Rod King 20's Plenty for Us

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Hi Dave,
Safer Roads Humber originally commissioned the course to ensure that the road safety professionals from the council, fire service and police in our area have knowledge of the various behaviour change theories.

We use the RoSPA evaluation toolkit as the framework to measure the impact of our projects. We are realistic in what we can measure and how far the projects can set people on the path of change. But you have to understand the theories first before anything is developed. I’d recommend the RoSPA logic models to anyone wanting to develop aims, objectives and measurable outcomes.
Ruth Gore, Safer Roads Humber

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I'm not sure what point you're making, Nick. The course is about changing road users behaviour which, they claim, can result in “significant reductions in road related incidents”. Clearly, if the course results in interventions which do successfully change behaviours, then the effects of those interventions (whether positive or negative) could be “significant” and therefore measurable.

The problem in road safety has never been a lack of ideas or a will to implement them, it's always been a lack of good quality evidence of what effect they've had. I'm wondering if this course has thought to be different.
Dave Finney, Slough

Agree (10) | Disagree (8)

I think the bit you've missed out of the quote in the story is very important for context. The full quote reads:

“Behavioural change is key in making significant improvements to the way people use our roads, and in making significant reductions in road related incidents and injuries.”
Nick Rawlings, editor, Road Safety News

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If “Behavioural change is ... making significant reductions in road related incidents” then it should be relatively easy to measure the effect of interventions. That would either require analysing and removing the effects of all other influences to leave just the effect of the intervention, or running scientific trials.

The course sounds like a good idea with important questions being asked but, as Paul suggests, what methods are proposed to assess the effects of any interventions that come from it?
Dave Finney, Slough

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Sounds useful if it targets all road users, not just drivers, and is objective rather than subjective.
Paul Biggs, Staffordshire

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Safer Roads Humber has piloted this course for the academy and it was fantastic. It was a really interesting day and gave the road safety professionals the theory behind some of the questions we ask ourselves – why do young people take risks? Why shock tactics don’t work? Why people explain away poor driving behaviour, why it takes more than a poster to have an impact on changing people behaviour…

It has also enabled the partnership to look closely at its road safety projects and identify missing gaps in its delivery. We will be developing a number of projects to fill these gaps and will feedback in the future.

A must do course for anyone delivering or developing road safety projects.
Ruth Gore, Safer Roads Humber

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