Getting unfit drivers off the road

VicRoads presented BWA Research Fellow, Nick Faulkner, with a staggering fact: nearly half of those prompted to verify their medical fitness for driving through official letters failed to respond by the set due date. To compound this challenge, an additional 30% of drivers were lagging behind in renewing their vehicle registration on time.

These drivers are not only a risk to themselves or others, but they can also have their licence suspended. Behavioural science proved to be a solution that is cost-effective and benefits the government and society.

The challenge:
How to increase compliance among those sent letters asking them to confirm their medical fitness to drive

What did we do?

Problem 1: Medical fitness to drive reviews

We started by understanding the problem through an extensive literature review, which provided insights into previous work. We examined driver complaints to pinpoint common barriers and analysed existing data for patterns. Subsequently, we crafted a targeted intervention, simplifying letter messaging. To gauge the intervention's effectiveness, we conducted a randomised trial during our test and measure phase, ensuring unbiased results.

Problem 2: Registration renewals

Instead of employing the BehaviourWorks Method, we formulated our messages through a dedicated workshop. Subsequently, we initiated a randomised trial wherein 5,000 customers were randomly allocated to one of five different letter conditions.

What did we find?

Problem 1: Medical fitness to drive reviews

VicRoads had a problem: 49% of drivers weren't submitting their medical fitness records in time. Using our INSPIRE Framework we re-wrote VicRoads’ standard letters. 

The new letters clearly explained why drivers had received the letters, what to do when to do it, why suspensions happen and acknowledged that the process is difficult.

On-time reports jumped from around 50 per cent to 62 per cent.‍

If this was applied to all of VicRoads’ medical review letters, you’d get nearly 7,000 more on-time submissions per year, a 20 per cent drop in follow-up correspondence costs, fewer unnecessary suspensions and, most importantly, fewer unsafe drivers on the road.

Problem 2: Registration renewals

Another challenge VicRoads faced was the 30% rate of drivers not renewing their vehicle registrations on time. In an effort to counteract this, we conducted a quasi-randomised controlled trial wherein we tested four different messages on the registration letters. 

Broadly summarised, the additional messages were:

  • The Stick (pay now and you won’t get fined)
  • The Carrot (you could win a holiday!)
  • Family Values (insure them and keep them safe) and,
  • You Pay Us, We Pay You (after an accident).

‘You Pay Us, We Pay You’ (up 2.3%) was the most effective. A 2.3% increase might not seem much, but on a typical renewal run of 100,000 letters, it would equate to 2,300 more registered drivers on the road and approximately $4.5 million more on-time payments each year.

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