Getting unfit drivers off the road

VicRoads presented BWA Research Fellow, Nick Faulkner, with a staggering fact: nearly half of those sent letters asking them to have a doctor check their medical fitness to drive didn’t comply by the due date.

These drivers are not only a risk to themselves or others, but they can also have their licence suspended.

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

What did we do?

Using our INSPIRE Framework (ask us for more information) 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 acknowledging 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.

Their high returns for the low cost of applying the bright arts of behavioural science.

Quasi Randomised Controlled Trial

VicRoads went on to conduct a quasi-randomised controlled trial to see if they could ‘nudge’ more drivers into paying their rego on time.

Along with the normal message at the top of the letter (‘Say goodbye to rego stickers for all light vehicles’), they added four variations to see if any would prompt people to pay their registrations by the due date.

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 per cent) and ‘Family Values’ (up 2 per cent).

Appealing to mutual responsibility and keeping our loved ones safe worked better than the carrot or the stick; 2.3 per cent 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.

From changing a few words on a letter.

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