However, the same research found that campaigns featuring gardaí stopping drivers and enforcing the road traffic legislation had more impact.
According to the author of the findings, Colm Conyngham, who recently completed the research at Stirling University in Scotland, this is because “a young motorist believes he or she is much more likely to be stopped by a garda than to kill themselves on the road”.
Mr Conyngham, who works as marketing manager with Bridgestone Tyres, said he concluded that it is publicity around the fear of being sanctioned that is more likely to change how young people drive.
“The feeling amongst young people is that it is other people who get killed and they don’t think they are going to die,” he added.
He came to the conclusion after reviewing extensive international research and considering whether the mass media can change a young motorist’s behaviour, “and the answer was no. People instead believe that it is much more likely they will get penalty points or go to jail then get killed”.
He was speaking as he attended the first road safety day to be organised by a joint policing committee in Ireland; it specifically aimed its message to ‘slow down’ at boy racers. Held in Drogheda, it had simulators that recreated the effect of doing a 360-degree roll in a car, speeding on a motorbike, driving a rally car, and showed how dangerous it is to get too close to a HGV which has a number of potentially fatal blind spots because of its dimensions.
The Road Safety Authority had volunteers answering questions and giving advice and its regional supervisor Kevin Condron warned that many of the cars which have been modified by boy racers will fail the NCT as a result of the changes made to their suspension, lights, exhaust and windows. He says that if the thousands of euro spent on these modifications was instead spent on racing in a safe and controlled environment at a proper race track, and not on the country’s roads, it could mean less young people forming part of the road death statistics.
“Thirty-eight percent of those killed on our roads last year were under 25 years of age,” said Mr Condron.
Garda Superintendent Gerry Smith, Drogheda, said: “Young people can get their thrills without the risk of losing their lives.”