PhD research: A theory-based approach to the development and evaluation of public education messages aimed at social interactive technology use among young drivers

Young drivers aged 17-25 years are both more accepting of technology and more likely than any other age group to use a mobile phone while driving, particularly smartphones. They are also more likely to access social interactive technologies, such as Facebook and email, placing them at increased risk of road trauma from driver distraction. Laws against mobile phone use while driving exist in Australia, however they may have the same effect as the laws for other risky road user behaviours (e.g. drink driving), as they are challenging to enforce. The development of countermeasures such as public education messages, therefore, is critical to alert drivers of the risky nature of such activities.

This PhD research conducted by Cassandra Gauld examined the role and effectiveness of public education messages that were developed and evaluated in accordance with the Step approach to Message Design and Testing (SatMDT). These messages were aimed at reducing key behaviours relating to smartphone use; namely, initiating, monitoring/reading, and responding to social interactive technology among young drivers aged 17-25 years.


This program of research supported the direct role of public education messages within the context of young drivers accessing social interactive technology while driving. It highlighted the importance of developing and evaluating public education messages based on theoretical and empirical evidence in accordance with the SatMDT framework. Initiating, monitoring/reading, and responding were found to be distinct behaviours with different underlying motivations and supported the suggestion that unique public education message content may be required for young male and young female drivers. Theoretical and methodological considerations were derived from this research, as well as practical implications regarding the future development of public education messages.


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Funding / Grants

  • QUT