So, researchers from the Universities of East Anglia, Kent, and Lincoln set up a test to see if they could influence the behaviour of drivers and cause them to be more aware of their engines. The study was published in the journal "Environment and Behaviour".
One of the lead authors of the study, Dr Rose Meleady, said the research wanted to establish how drivers could be persuaded to cut their engines if leaving them idling had the potential to "substantially pollute the atmosphere of a large number or residents and pedestrians".
The location for the experiment was in Canterbury, Kent, at a busy railway level crossing – one of the most common places to find drivers with idling engines. At the approach to the crossing the local council had placed a sign telling drivers to switch their engines off while waiting.
Researchers found that this sign on its own was not effective, with only 20 per cent of drivers following its instruction.
Separate tests were then set up to see if variations to the sign would affect the numbers of engines left idling by the drivers as they waited..
The first test was based on the idea that people are more likely to comply with rules if they feel as though they're being watched – whether they actually are or not is beside the point. The researchers created this effect by putting an image of "watching eyes" next to the original sign.
This is a technique that has previously been proven to scare off bike thieves and encourage people to pick up their litter. The results showed that the image of the eyes increased the amount of drivers who turned off their engines to 30 per cent.
The second test, however, did away with the idea of public surveillance and instead promoted self-surveillance. The sign with the eyes was replaced with a new one reading "Think of yourself: When barriers are down switch off your engine".
Asking drivers to look out for themselves was effective, with the amount of drivers turning off their engines rising to 50 per cent – more than double the original number.
Summing up the results, Dr. Meleady said, "These findings reinforce the importance of directing attention towards the individual when trying to encourage behaviour change, and beyond that, suggest it may sometimes be more effective to encourage self-surveillance rather than using cues suggesting public surveillance."
Tracker car insurance – a great tool for driving self-improvement
At Coverbox, we understand the power of offering incentives to encourage better driving and the benefits of self-surveillance.
Our tracker car insurance allows drivers to think of themselves and to review their own driving behaviour so they can become better, safer drivers.
At renewal, if the recorded driving data shows they have driven safely and responsibly throughout the life of their policy, then we will be able to offer them the best possible price on their premium.
And remember, whenever you are stopped at a level crossing or you find yourself stuck for more than a few minutes in stationary traffic, think of yourself. Turn your engine off and you will be saving yourself fuel as well as helping the environment.