The effect of inconvenience on road safety

Imagine a new television hitting the shelves. Now this one is all sleek and offers exceptionally high visuals apart from being adaptable with all your gadgets. It sounds like a catch, doesn’t it? But what if I told you that it is sleek but weighs more than 150 pounds and comes with a 50-page instruction manual that you need to go through to be able to leverage its advantage fully? Plus, you have to install it on your own. Sounds cumbersome, doesn’t it?

Despite all the features it has, still, a majority would stick to their conventional screens because, by the sound of it, it really does not look easy to use or install. Here, the functionality is topped by what we will further discuss as “perceived usefulness” and “ease of use.”

We hold a million biases about technology, and yet, some of those might just be gravely putting our loved ones in danger, especially our little angels. Don’t believe us? We have a simple question for you – how often do people in developing countries, where technological advancement is still catching up, use child safety measures in their vehicles?

Only 7.8% of child passengers were correctly secured in a CSS (car safety seat) in research done in South Africa. 92% of survey participants reported to have little or no awareness of the “need” for it. This lack of a lower perceived “need” stems from a lack of knowledge of the advantages of upcoming technology but is also driven by the fact that a number of parents are overly confident about the fact that children are inherently safer while being in a vehicle that is being driven by them.

Whether we believe it or not, in a number of geographies, child safety depends on the parents’ perception and understanding of the technology that aids it. In case parents find it to be inconvenient or time-consuming or maybe not worth the amount it costs, the chances of them dropping the idea of using that tool increases exponentially. 

Table of content –

1. Why do we avoid using certain technologies?

2. Technology acceptance model

3. Child Safety Products – what drives their usage?

4. Optimism Bias – could be the silent killer when travelling with children

So, first, let’s discuss precisely why is it that we avoid using certain technologies.

Extensions of seemingly obvious inconveniences, according to researchers, may lead to not wanting to opt for newer technology. Similar is the case for young parents, but we will move to that later. Before we talk about how the ease of use of a product in terms of child safety can be a deal-breaker, let’s learn about what the term means and where it comes from.

Like any other product that comes with regular upgrades, child safety equipment is ever-evolving. Technology Acceptance Model (TAM) highlights the odds of successful usage of such a technology when travelling with children, based primarily on two factors –

1. Ease of Use

2. Perceived Usefulness

Davis defines perceived ease of use as “the degree to which a person believes that using a particular system would be free of effort” (Davis, 1989, p. 320), whilst perceived usefulness is characterised as “the degree to which a person believes that using a particular system would improve his or her job performance” (Davis, 1989, p. 320). (Davis, 1989, p. 320).

Most child safety products currently in the market, such as child safety seats or helmets, are inconvenient to use owing to bulkiness, weight, and other factors like a child crying when you put them on or feeling uncomfortable. Such factors make it exceedingly difficult for parents to travel with their children on vacation or flights while using proper safety measures. As a result, individuals avoid using it in favour of holding a child in their arms, which may be pretty harmful, despite how seemingly convenient it might be. Car safety seats, harnesses, and seat belts are just as vital for your child as they are for you. According to ÚNICEF every day, around the world, nearly 2,000 people die in road accidents, 500 of them children. Every four minutes a child dies on the road. Hundreds of children were injured, many seriously injured 

But yet another, even scarier reason behind not using such measures is the optimism bias. In another study (can you include the link to studies here), the use of restraints by young children is frequently influenced by the driver’s seat belt usage. Nearly 40% of youngsters travelling with uncontrolled drivers were also unrestrained.

Unrealistic optimism, also known as optimism bias, is the propensity to feel that one is better skillful and less likely to face a negative occurrence than one’s peers. Melanie J. White’s research from 1989 reveals that people are too unreasonably optimistic when assessing their driving ability and accident probability. This kind of false confidence invariably leads one to believe that one or one’s child is less prone to meeting an accident if they themselves are driving. The propensity for drivers to think of themselves as more skilled may lead to a lack of usage of proper child safety products. This does not mean that they don’t care about the safety of children but, in return, leads to the failure to use adequate automobile safety measures.

To not let inconvenience dictate the usage of child safety products, proper awareness campaigns need to be conducted so as to educate the masses on the need for such equipment. There need to be more stringent laws that are put in place in order to penalize those who, due to lack of knowledge, inconvenience or because of optimism bias, opt to use child safety measures while on the road. Most Importantly, companies that manufacture these products must focus on developing products that are safe but easy to use  at the same time.in order to increase the adoption  of these products. Only then do we avoid road fatalities or the high risk of injury of our children in road traffic incidents. 

Sources –

Ren, M. Why technology adoption succeeds or fails: an exploration from the perspective of intra-organizational legitimacy. J. Chin. Social. 6, 21 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1186/s40711-019-0109-x

Davis, F.D. 1986. A technology acceptance model for empirically testing new end-user information systems: Theory and results. Doctoral dissertation. Sloan School of Management. Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Davis, F.D. 1989. Perceived usefulness, perceived ease of use, and user acceptance of information technology. MIS Quarterly 13 (3): 319–340.

Peden M., Oyegbite K., Ozanne-Smith J., Hyder A.A., Branche C., Rahman A., Rivara F., Bartolomeo’s K. World Report on Child Injury Prevention. World Health Organisation; Geneva, Switzerland: 2008.