Are we wasting money on educational campaigns?

March 21, 2017 - 5:00am

KAMLOOPS — We are spending an awful lot of money these days on educational programs aimed at various things. We are spending a lot trying to educate the public about drug use, about spotting behavior in our kids that could indicate drug use. We spend a lot on various safety programs, about preventing violence and bullying, whether online or in the workplace. We spend a lot trying to convince people to change the way they do things. But often I wonder whether it’s just largely a waste of time.

How much have we spent trying to educate people about the dangers of distracted driving? And every time there’s a spot check, we get a whole raft of people who think they are above the law. Last week, a two day blitz nabbed 52 distracted drivers. That’s a lot. But even more importantly, there were more people nabbed for seatbelt infractions than distracted driving. That is abysmal, considering how long we have been advocating use of seatbelts, and how long the law has been in effect. Not to mention the proven dangers of driving without a seatbelt. How many pictures of people dying in vehicles because they were thrown out of a car or truck without their seatbelt on do we have to have? It boggles the mind.

And so I say, do these campaigns do any good? Obviously we can’t provide an answer to that. We’ll never know if statistics would have been higher if the campaigns hadn’t been in effect. But sometimes, sadly, it takes some sobering truths to convince people. Sometimes it takes the death of someone close to you to realize they would still be with you if they had worn their seatbelt. Or they wouldn’t be in jail because they were texting on their phone and smacked into a pedestrian. Sometimes a fine will do the trick. But sometimes it takes a lot more than that.

And there will be repeat offenders no matter how many times they get nabbed. Education can be a powerful motivator, but I guess for some, it will take harsh reality to convince them they need to change their habits. No different than drunk driving. And that’s a case where education seems to have had some effect. The number of cases of drunk driving seems to have diminished, but there is still room to get better.

I’m obviously not advocating reducing educational campaigns. If we only save one life, we’re doing well, and the campaign is worth it. But sometimes, as I drive along and see someone without a seat belt, or reaching into the back seat while they’re driving, eyes nowhere near the road, or a cellphone up to an ear, or worse still, eyes in the lap while texting, I wonder just how stupid you have to be not to get the message. There are some who will, even if they get caught, never learn. 

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