Title

Can a procedural justice approach to enforcement reduce low-level speeding?

Date of Award

2019

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Criminal Justice by Research

School

School of Arts and Humanities

First Advisor

Dr Catherine Ferguson

Second Advisor

Associate Professor Pamela Henry

Abstract

Between the 2007-08 and 2016-17 financial years, 13071 people were killed in crashes on Australian roads (Productivity Commission, 2018). Speed is widely acknowledged as a contributing factor to the road toll (Archer, Fotheringham, Symmons, & Corben, 2008; Fleiter & Watson, 2006). While reducing speeding at any levels is important for road safety, it is at the lowest end that the most significant gains can be made but where the challenges are the highest. Low level speeding is widespread and generally considered socially acceptable and not suitable for enforcement by police (Austroads, 2013). However, it is the widespread nature that magnifies both the risk and the benefits from reducing the prevalence of the behaviour. The aim of this study is to ascertain if using a procedural justice approach to enforcement could result in a reduction in low level speeding. Enforcement has been shown to be effective at reducing speeding and procedural justice as promoting perceptions of fairness, acceptance of enforcement and future compliance with the law.

This study used a 2 x 2 x 2 repeated measures experimental design. All participants were exposed to every experimental condition, resulting in multiple measures of the dependant variables. To enable these exposures eight short vignettes were developed and presented in a online survey instrument. The vignettes manipulated the independent variables, with each asking the participant to consider themselves as the driver in an interaction with a police officer who had stopped them for a low level speeding offence either on a residential street or on a country highway. In the vignettes the officer either displays or fails to display behaviours indicative of procedural justice and either issues a traffic infringement or a verbal caution. Four questions accompanied each vignette. The first three questions require participants to indicate their level of agreement with three statements along a Likert scale. A single qualitative question asking participants to provide an explanation for their selections.

Completed surveys were received from 160 participants. Three way repeated measures ANOVA were conducted to examine the effects of procedural justice on perceptions of fairness, acceptance of enforcement and of future compliance with the speed limits. Interactions between procedural justice and both setting and enforcement outcome were also examined. Where a two-way interaction was statistically significant the mean values were plotted on a graph and examined visually. Two-way repeated measures ANOVA were conducted with indicated normal travel speeds and minimum enforcement speeds in both settings as between groups variables. This analysis was to examine whether any effect from a procedural justice differed between these groups. Where a two-way interaction was statistically significant the mean values were plotted on a graph and examined visually.

The study found that procedural justice had positive effects on perceptions of fairness, acceptance of enforcement by infringement and future compliance with the speed limit. Road setting and enforcement type had some effect but this was in the strength of the influence of procedural justice rather than the direction. A procedural justice approach to enforcement was found to increase perceptions of future compliance with the speed limit even in those who routinely exceed the speed limit or who did not believe in the strict enforcement. The findings are a positive for policing and road safety as they provide a strategy to tackle the low level speeding issue that may be effective but maintain legitimacy. It provides support for the concepts arising from procedural justice theory and a base for further research.

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