Changes in Risk Perceptions Prospectively Predict Changes in Self-Reported Speeding
Risk perception theories posit that changes in risk perception prompt subsequent changes in risk behavior. Prospective studies using observations made at three time-points offer the capacity to test this hypothesis by observing sequential changes in both risk perceptions and behavior. A telephone survey was administered by random-digit dialing to 255 adult Australian drivers at baseline (T1), 6 weeks (T2), and 14 weeks (T3). During weeks 2–5, a risk-perception-based anti-speeding mass media campaign was conducted. The survey assessed risk perception, operationalized as the proportion of time that driving at 70 km/h (43 mph) was perceived to be dangerous, and self-reported speeding behavior, defined as the frequency of respondents driving 5 km (3 mph) faster than the legal speed limit in built up areas. Higher T2 risk perception predicted lower T3 self-reports of speeding after controlling T1 risk perception and T1 and T2 self-reported speeding. This can be interpreted as changes in risk perceptions between T1 and T2 predicting changes in speeding between T2 and T3. Further analyses showed that increases in risk perception predicted lower subsequent self-reported speeding changes, but decreases in risk perception were unrelated to those changes. Risk perception changes were unrelated to recall of exposure to the media campaign. These findings support a dynamic view of the relationship between risk perception and self-reported behavior, and that risk perception theories can be applied to speeding.