Social marketing and distracted driving behaviors among young adults : the effectiveness of fear appeals.

Lennon, R. Rentfro, R. & O'Leary, B.

This paper examines the topical issue of discouraging young adults from engaging in distracted driving behaviors. While the focus of the paper is on the effectiveness of fear appeals in achieving this objective, the paper also considers the role that distracted driving laws might play. In an experiment involving 840 young adults, the authors examined whether social marketing fear appeals (1) changed participants’ beliefs about distractions caused by four unsafe driving behaviors and (2) influenced participants’ intentions of engaging in those behaviors. After viewing two fear appeals, participants rated the behaviors as more distracting than they previously believed. However, they reported increased intentions of engaging in the behaviors (a boomerang effect). Males reported greater increases in intentions to engage in two behaviors than those reported by females. The authors considered these results in light of findings from a separate focus group study of young adults’reactions to six fear appeals including the two used in this study. The PSAs used in this experiment aroused only low-to-moderate levels of fear in young adults; therefore, the appeals may not have been strong enough to reach young adults on this issue. As they examined their participants' responses to open-ended questions, they found some evidence concerning the possible effectiveness of distracted driving laws. The males in their study were much more likely than females to suggest using laws and legal action to discourage distracted driving. Males also were more likely than females to say that fear appeals will not change distracted driving behaviors. Females were supportive of the use of fear appeals and suggested using interviews with people who had been affected by distracted driving accidents as an tool for changing the behaviors of young adults. (Author/publisher)

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20110558 ST [electronic version only]

Academy of Marketing Studies Journal, Vol. 14 (2010), No. 2 (July), p. 95-113, ref.

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