Putting passengers in the driver’s seat – Preventing road traffic deaths through a public service campaign

$291,154 | Stage 2: Testing at Scale | Global Health

Georgetown University | Kenya

The problem: Frequently fatal traffic accidents on minibuses

Photo of minibuses in Kenya

“14 Killed in Crash” is an all too common headline in Kenya, where a ride on a minibus is a notorious danger. In sub-Saharan Africa, road deaths are the leading cause of death for people ages 15 to 29 and the second leading cause of death for people ages 5 to 14. Road deaths cost the region $10 billion annually.  Solutions to this road safety problem, like building guardrails or traffic enforcement, however, are often extremely expensive.

The solution: Saving lives with stickers

A pair of Georgetown University researchers devised an experiment to see if simple messaging could help save passengers’ lives. Motivational messages encouraging passengers to “Speak up!” against dangerous driving were pasted in the passenger cabin of minibuses. The passengers were not asked to report the drivers to a third party—they were simply encouraged to insist that their drivers slow down.

The researchers’ pilot study, which involved 2,400 vehicles, showed striking results: the stickers were posted inside a random selection of 1200 minibuses. Compared to rates for 1200 buses without stickers, road accident insurance claims fell by half, and claims involving injury or death dropped by two-thirds. The cost was $7 per disability-adjusted life year.

To encourage drivers to keep the stickers in place on buses, the researchers ran a weekly lottery with winnings of $60 (equivalent to roughly one week’s wages). Drivers were eligible to receive the prize if they had retained the stickers in their vehicles.

Speak up Now: Dont Let a Reckless Driver get away with murder
Bus Sticker: Speak up Now, Dont Let a Reckless Driver get away with murder

The potential: Cost-effectiveness, impacts and implications

With $290,000 from IDEA/DIV, the researchers are expanding the pilot to reach approximately 10,000 minibuses in Kenya. Researchers are testing different messages and different media techniques to gauge the effectiveness of each over time.

It is estimated that there are over 40,000 minibuses operating in urban and rural areas of Kenya. More than 300,000 people take public transportation every day. If the results of the pilot expansion are as promising as the initial results, Kenya’s leading insurance company for minibuses is ready fund and scale the campaign as it will both increase profits and save lives.

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Last updated: September 09, 2014

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