A recent study from the University of Canberra has shown that the introduction of positive reinforcement in driver training could have significant benefits for all road users.


For the most part, current road safety messages and overall road culture are driven by the "negatives." Whilst enforcement and penalties are part of the solution, they shouldn’t be relied upon as the only course of action.


Psychology has shown that behavior can be changed more quickly and with longer lasting results by rewarding desirable behavior.


This positive reinforcement during the early stages of a driver’s development could lead to a more enjoyable time on the road for everyone according to University of Canberra academic Dr Lucienne Kleisen.


This concept was recently reported on by Stephanie Anderson in the Canberra Times (17 January 2012). The article focused on research undertaken by Dr Kleisen who asserts that positive reinforcement during driver training could lead to a more enjoyable time on the road. After examining the responses of more than 300 university students aged between 18 and 25 years, Dr Lucienne Kleisen found that thinking and driving styles are similar concepts.


Since thinking styles can be trained, this means driving styles can also be trained, and combining the use of effective thinking styles and positive driving styles could lead learner drivers to develop safer driving habits.


Dr Kleisen found that the majority of young drivers were motivated by the possibility of adverse consequences. They indicated that they are afraid of fines or crashing. Dr Kleisen said the introduction of positive reinforcement in driver training could help curb some of the rebellious behaviour seen in some young drivers.


"If you look at road safety messages now, a lot of them are negative. They all say 'don't' and some people get a bit rebellious from messages like that," she said.


Dr Kleisen’s research also explored the notion of "carma". It seems many young drivers believe that if you behave nicely to other drivers, your trip will most likely be a pleasant experience, while if you don’t behave nicely to other drivers, bad things might happen during the drive.


Clearly the time has come to refresh how we manage and communicate good driving behaviour and road safety generally. We need to encourage road users to think more carefully about their actions on the road and to have a greater understanding of what it takes to become a safer driver.


Improving our 'carma' on the roads has potential to save lives on the road and we may even find ourselves getting more green lights, courtesy waves and experiencing less road rage.


For the full article in The Canberra Times visit: http://www.canberratimes.com.au/news/local/news/general/boosting-your-carma/2422181.aspx


Dr Lucienne Kleisen’s complete PhD thesis – The relationship between thinking and driving styles and their contribution to young driver road safety – is available at:http://www.canberra.edu.au/researchrepository/items/6fea884a-e120-ca62-f732-419e3ae802ca/1/