Experience from similar schemes around the world has shown that when drivers’ are aware that their actions behind the wheel can be reported upon, the resulting improvement in driver attitude and driving standards can be credited to what is commonly referred to as "The Hawthorne Effect" following Psychological studies by Professor Elton Mayo.
Roaddriver asked two leading British Professors in Traffic Psychology what their views were on the Hawthorne effect in relation to driver monitoring. This is what they wrote:
1. ˝Another part of the effect is caused by the removal of anonymity. People in cars/vans/trucks behave more discourteously than the same people walking in the street. When we are hidden from view we think ourselves invisible, and allowed to behave as we want˝.
2. ˝I suppose a Hawthorne type effect could account for any improvement in traffic behaviour due to drivers perceiving that their behaviour is being monitored. However, there could also be other possible explanations. For example, monitoring might heighten drivers' awareness of social norms that are in favour of safe driving practices˝.
Further research shows that unless the monitoring system is on an on going basis, such as the RoadDriver monitoring scheme, the improvement in driving standards can be pretty short-lived, for example, when the police car turns off, most drivers’ a mile or two down the road return to their habitual driving style which can be attributed to Muscle Memory.
What is Muscle Memory?
Most drivers develop what physiologists and psychologists call muscle memory. Ironically it is called muscle memory but your muscles don’t actually remember anything. All movements are controlled by the brain sending out nerve signals to the muscles with the subconscious mind orchestrating automated responses to everyday driving situations commonly known as driving habits, some good some bad.
It can be easy to lose concentration through monotony; most drivers at some time have driven home and can’t remember anything about the journey. The challenge for RoadDriver and all road users is to ensure that any improvement in driver behaviour due to the Hawthorne effect is not short lived.