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Evidence that implementation intentions reduce drivers’ speeding behavior : testing a new intervention to change driver behavior

Brewster, Sarah and Elliott, Mark and Kelly, Stephen (2015) Evidence that implementation intentions reduce drivers’ speeding behavior : testing a new intervention to change driver behavior. Accident Analysis and Prevention, 74. pp. 229-242. ISSN 0001-4575

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Abstract

Implementation intentions have the potential to break unwanted habits and help individuals behave in line with their goal intentions. We tested the effects of implementation intentions in the context of drivers’ speeding behavior. A randomized controlled design was used. Speeding behavior, goal intentions and theoretically derived motivational pre-cursors of goal intentions were measured at both baseline and follow-up (one month later) using self-report questionnaires. Immediately following the baseline questionnaire, the experimental (intervention) group (N = 117) specified implementation intentions using a volitional help sheet, which required the participants to link critical situations in which they were tempted to speed with goal-directed responses to resist the temptation. The control group (N = 126) instead received general information about the risks of speeding. In support of the hypotheses, the experimental group reported exceeding the speed limit significantly less often at follow-up than did the control group. This effect was specific to ‘inclined abstainers’ (i.e., participants who reported speeding more than they intended to at baseline and were therefore motivated to reduce their speeding) and could not be attributed to any changes in goal intentions to speed or any other measured motivational construct. Also in line with the hypotheses, implementation intentions attenuated the past-subsequent speeding behavior relationship and augmented the goal intention – subsequent speeding behavior relationship. The findings imply that implementation intentions are effective at reducing speeding and that they do so by weakening the effect of habit, thereby helping drivers to behave in accordance with their existing goal intentions. The volitional help sheet used in this study is an effective tool for promoting implementation intentions to reduce speeding.