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331 Why research is indispensable to smart public policy
  1. Anthony Green
  1. Safe Kids Worldwide


Background Laws are essential in all efforts to save young lives. It is important to reinforce the indispensable role evidence plays in winning an advocacy effort, just as evidence is the foundation for all aspects of public safety campaigns, messaging and education.

Description of the problem In 2013, 2,163 kids 16–19 were killed in U.S. car crashes. Drivers aged 16–19 are nearly three times more likely to be in a fatal car crash than those aged 20 and older. The risk is greater because teens are less likely to recognise road dangers than older drivers and more likely to exceed speed limits. Of kids 13–20 dying in motor vehicle crashes, only 56% were wearing seat belts.

Results There is a body of evidence that stronger Graduated Driver License (GDL) laws save lives as demonstrated in the U.S., and also in Canada, Sweden and New Zealand. Since Illinois passed a tougher GDL law there’s been a 57% reduction in teen motor crashes. Connecticut has one of the most stringent GDL laws in the U.S., and in 2014, not a single 16- or 17- year old passenger was killed in a crash involving a driver in the same age group. In addition, evidence based online applications can predict how many lives are saved through various GDL interventions. As an example, a “calculator” created by the respected Insurance Institute for Highway Safety predicts that if Arkansas raised its permit age to 16 and limited night driving, there could be a 26% reduction in fatal crashes. Safe Kids has cited the calculator in a successful advocacy effort in the U.S. Senate and it was used in an effort in New Jersey. The combination of real time data and modelling tools from a credible research organisation are powerful weapons to influence child safety policy change.

Conclusions Advocacy campaigns require a foundation of data and evidence, and the research function should be part of the planning process in developing a campaign.

  • advocacy
  • legislation
  • public policy
  • transport safety

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