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Evaluation of Speedwatch - Research Findings

DescriptionThe aim of the fifth Speedwatch campaign was to raise awareness amongst drivers of the dangers of speeding. This is a summary of the report to evaluate that campaign.
ISBN0 7480 5133 3
Official Print Publication Date
Website Publication DateDecember 29, 1998
Development Department Research Programme Research Findings No. 17 (1996)
Evaluation of "Speedwatch"

System Three Scotland

ISBN 0-7480-5133-3Publisher The Scottish OfficePrice £5.00
Speeding is a contributory factor in a significant number of road accidents, and accidents occurring at a higher speed are more likely to result in serious or fatal injuries to those involved. The aim of the fifth Speedwatch campaign was to raise awareness amongst drivers of the dangers of speeding, and to contribute to the overall campaign to reduce the number of road casualties in Scotland by one third by the year 2000. The campaign was a combination of education and publicity using leaflets, posters, bus back and radio advertising, along with targeted enforcement activity. It was jointly launched by The Scottish Road Safety Campaign (SRSC) and the Association of Chief Police Officers (Scotland) and was conducted over the period 24 April-14 May 1995.
An evaluation of Speedwatch was conducted in summer 1995 by System Three Scotland in order to measure the effectiveness of the campaign by investigating drivers' awareness of it, their attitudes towards the publicity and police enforcement during the campaign, and the extent to which they received and understood the Speedwatch message.
Main Findings
  • Just under two thirds of drivers claimed to have heard of Speedwatch, with awareness highest amongst high mileage drivers and commercial radio listeners
  • Recall of Speedwatch campaign materials varied by geographical area. Overall, just over two fifths of the drivers claimed to have seen the poster and half recognised the radio advert
  • The main message of Speedwatch was identified by half the drivers interviewed as being "to make drivers slow down"
  • Although most drivers believed that Speedwatch was to some degree effective, over a third felt that it was not, mainly because it was ignored by drivers or they were not aware of it, or because its effects were short-term
  • The large majority of drivers agreed that the campaign made them more aware of their speed
  • Only one in five felt "it is just an opportunity for the police to book more drivers for speeding"
  • Overall, the campaign received widespread support from drivers, with a large majority agreeing that it was necessary in order to reduce speeding
The Campaign
Speedwatch is a three week long road safety campaign aimed at raising awareness amongst drivers of the dangers of driving at inappropriate and excessive speed. The 1995 Speedwatch Campaign was the fifth in a series dating back to 1992; each campaign is overseen by a working group comprising representatives of each of the Scottish police forces and the SRSC.
The 1995 Speedwatch campaign used leaflets, advertisements on bus backs, posters and radio adverts and features throughout Scotland in an attempt to publicise the campaign. Police enforcement activity concentrated on known blackspots and the locations of Speedwatch areas were advertised through various channels, mainly the press, to alert the public to enforcement activity.
During the campaign, some 11,954 speeding offences were detected, 75% occurring in 30mph zones. Evaluations of previous campaigns had concentrated on the number of offences committed during each campaign as a measure of 'effectiveness'. Because this was influenced by the level of police activity in the area, the evaluation of Speedwatch 95 was extended to include drivers' awareness and attitudes towards the campaign.
Methodology and objectives
The evaluation of Speedwatch consisted of both quantative and qualitative research. A survey of 996 drivers in Scotland was conducted with interviews distributed in proportion to the spread of the driving population. Quotas were set on the age and sex of drivers, and interviewing was conducted during the latter days of the Speedwatch period. Three group discussions of current drivers were also carried out in the third week of the campaign, involving a group of young male drivers in Glasgow, an older group of female drivers in Edinburgh and of older male drivers in Stirling.
The specific objectives of the evaluation of the effectiveness of Speedwatch were:-
  • to measure the level of awareness amongst drivers of the campaign
  • to establish drivers' attitudes towards Speedwatch publicity
  • to determine drivers' attitudes towards police enforcement activity during the campaign
  • to gain an insight into drivers' perceptions of Speedwatch and their understanding of its message

The Speedwatch Campaign

Awareness of Speedwatch
Almost two thirds of drivers (64%) indicated that they had heard of the Speedwatch campaign. High mileage drivers were much more likely to be aware of Speedwatch, and those in the Central and Fife area (Tay radio was the station cited as listened to most often amongst drivers) were more aware of the campaign. The main media sources identified, were radio (27% overall), television (26%) and newspapers (23%).
Overall, 42% of drivers indicated that they had previously seen the poster, with recall varying according to region (only 24% of drivers in the Highland Region had seen the poster advert). Slightly more claimed to have heard the radio adverts, with the lowest level occurring in the Highland Region (35%), but awareness in other regions ranged from 47% to 53%.
Understanding of Speedwatch
The main message received from the campaign was to generally "make drivers slow down" (49%). The most common response to the specific purpose of the campaign with regard to speed limits was "to stay within the specified speed limits". High mileage drivers and drivers in the Highlands were more likely to know that Speedwatch was an annual campaign.
Effectiveness of Speedwatch
A majority thought that the campaign was effective, although not 'very' effective. High mileage rather than low mileage drivers were less likely to view it as effective.
Graph 1
Overall effectiveness
Graph 1 Overall effectiveness
Graph 2 Statement
Overall, most agreed that it was pointless to make the drivers aware of the location of the Speedwatch enforcement areas, but a substantial minority thought that the locations should be advertised.
The majority of drivers agreed that drivers are more aware of their speed during the campaign period although 72% agreed that drivers only watch their speed in the specific Speedwatch areas. A clear majority (87%) agreed that the campaign should occur more frequently. There was however a high level of agreement (81%) that the campaign was likely to only have a short term effect.
Most saw the campaign as designed to educate drivers about the dangers of speeding, (only 20% of drivers agreed that the campaign was "just an opportunity for the police to book more drivers for speeding") and a large majority (88%) viewed such a campaign as necessary to reduce speeding.
Speeding in general:
General awareness of publicity about speeding
68% of drivers claimed to have seen some publicity, not necessarily associated with Speedwatch, about speeding. Those least likely to recall such publicity tended to be of an older age group, belong to a lower socio-economic class, were low mileage drivers and more likely to live in the Lothian and Borders area. The main media identified was television, followed by radio and newspapers.
Understanding the publicity
The message received and understood by publicity on speeding in general, was that drivers should "slow down/keep their speed down" (38%) followed by "speed kills" (23%).
Part of the evaluation of Speedwatch explored drivers' general attitudes to speeding and enforcement, and it was possible to compare these with two earlier surveys commissioned by The Scottish Office in 1991 and 1994.
Causes of accidents
73% of Speedwatch respondents mentioned speeding as a cause of accidents, and 58% mentioned carelessness or recklessness as a cause. The proportion of drivers who considered that speeding was the main cause of accidents (50%) is considerably higher than those interviewed in the "Attitudes of Scottish Drivers towards Speeding 1994 Survey", where 28% saw speeding as the main cause, but 45% thought that drink driving was the factor most likely to cause accidents. There were some regional differences in perceived causes of accidents during the Speedwatch campaign, with a larger proportion of drivers from Tayside & Grampian indicating speed as a cause of accidents. Low mileage drivers were more likely to mention speed as a cause, whilst high mileage drivers tended to cite carelessness and tiredness. Young and inexperienced drivers were perceived to be the most likely to be involved in accidents, particularly identified by those in older age groups.
Attitudes to speeding and speed limits
Awareness of the speed limit in a built up area was high (97% overall), and the consensus was that the 30 mph limit was about right (69%). A significant proportion however felt that these were too fast (26%). These findings are similar to those in the 1994 Drivers' Attitudes Survey, where 72% felt that the 30 mph speed limit was about right, with 20% perceiving it as too fast. A substantial majority (78%) of the Speedwatch drivers however, believed that there were circumstances when the speed limit should be lower than 30 mph, especially in areas used by children. Those who felt that the speed limit in some circumstances should be raised, tended to cite dual carriageways as the appropriate location.
Views on speed measures
Speed cameras were perceived by drivers to be the most effective method of reducing speed, followed by traffic calming and police radar checks. High mileage drivers, compared to others, tended to cite speed cameras as most effective.
Braking distance
Just over half (55%) of the drivers were correctly able to identify the braking distance for a car travelling at 30 mph in normal circumstances. This represented an increase in correct identification found in the 1991 survey, when just 46% of drivers answered this question correctly.
The Speedwatch campaign has raised awareness both of itself and speeding in general amongst Scottish drivers. It has been widely recognised that the purpose of the campaign is to educate drivers about the dangers of speeding, and most drivers were of the view that the campaign is, overall, effective - for example in curbing speeding within the designated areas. The various forms of media through which the message is conveyed have been generally effective in reaching the required audience, particularly those drivers who, other research suggests, are most likely to speed. The majority of drivers thought such a campaign was necessary to reduce speeding and that it should occur on a more frequent basis. However, qualifying these positive views of the campaign somewhat, were drivers' belief that the impact of the campaign would be short-lived, that drivers only watch their speed whilst in the Speedwatch area, and that it is pointless to forewarn drivers of the locations where the campaign is being conducted.
The research has confirmed that there are high levels of awareness of the various speed limits according to type of road, in Scotland, and that drivers recognise speed as a contributory factor to accidents. There is also widespread recognition of the advisability of following speed limits in certain areas.
"Evaluation of Speedwatch", the research report summarised in this Research Findings, and "Attitudes of Scottish Drivers Towards Speeding - 1994 Survey" are available priced £5.00.
Cheques should be made payable to The Stationery Office Books and addressed to:
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The report can also be ordered online

Further copies of this Research Findings may be obtained from:
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