Improving Road Safety through Deterrence-Based Initiatives : A review of research

Jeremy D Davey, James E Freeman


The efficacy of road safety countermeasures to deter motorists from engaging in illegal behaviours is extremely important when considering the personal and economic impact of road accidents on the community. In many countries, deterrence theory has remained a cornerstone of criminology and criminal justice policy, particularly within the field of road safety, as policy makers and enforcement agencies attempt to increase perceptions regarding the certainty, severity and swiftness of sanctions for those who engage in illegal motoring behaviours. Using the Australian experience (particularly the tremendous amount of research into drink driving), the current paper reviews the principles underpinning deterrence theory, the utilisation of the approach within some contemporary road safety initiatives (e.g., random breath testing) as well as highlighting some methods to enhance a deterrent effect. The paper also provides direction for future deterrence-based research, in particular, considering the powerful impact of non-legal sanctions, punishment avoidance as well as creating culturally embedded behavioural change.


Deterrence; Road Safety Countermeasures; Sanctions; Non-legal Sanctions

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Sultan Qaboos University Medical Journal, College of Medicine and Health Sciences, Sultan Qaboos University, PO Box 35, Postal Code 123, Al-Khod, Muscat, Oman

ISSN (Print edition): 2075-051X ISSN (Internet edition): 2075-0528

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