Fear as a motivator

If you’re a child of the 70s like me, you probably have a fear of the 5th November thanks to the rather terrifying public information films that warned us of the perils of picking up a hot sparkler and other dangerous bonfire night behaviours.

Recent statistics show that fireworks related injuries are on the rise again, particularly amongst younger people, so is it time to scare them into choosing better behaviours? Fear tactics have always been a popular tool in public health and safety campaigns (smoking, seat belts, and speeding are a few examples) but studies have shown that scare tactics alone are not that effective with younger people and can cause more harm than good[1].

How can we take a behavioural approach to keeping fireworks fun?

It seems sensible here to follow the advice of the Royal Society for Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA), and encourage people to keep their houses firework-free and head to large, organised events (the preferred behaviour) as they have identified this as the safest way to enjoy fireworks night.

The RoSPA could collaborate with local police and community groups to promote those events in a way that engages young people and families with kids (the target audience). These promotions might tap into social norms by showing most people attend a large event, with a commitment to a common goal of having fun and going home safely.

Some disruptive communications around the event entrance and other touch-points could reframe those risky behaviours to show it’s not big, it’s not cool, and it’s not clever to end up in hospital at the end of the night with a lifelong injury. Perhaps there’s a place for those petrifying-but-powerful images here?

Finally, a practical intervention such as buckets of cold water placed around the site would be a simple and affordable way to make it easier for people to dispose of their sparklers safely.

These are just a few ideas, and I’d love to hear more. For more ideas on how to help people choose safer behaviours, check out what we did for FCC and Biffa.

[1] http://masstapp.edc.org/sites/masstapp.edc.org/files/Talking%20points%20about%20scare%20tactics_0.pdf