What compliance can learn from the lollipop man/lady

...and from traffic in general.

Wijnand Langen
Wijnand Langen Creative strategist

A sustainably compliant organisation needs more than a code of conduct or compliance regulation. Rules are the basis, but the key to compliance policy lies in communicating, learning and inspiring together. Using these elements well is the only way that compliance can truly be anchored sustainably. We find examples of how group psychology and marketing techniques can successfully contribute to this in a field that we all know: traffic.

Directing traffic in group 6

Since the 1950s, the lollipop man/lady has been a familiar sight on the road. The status of the lollipop man/lady is legally defined in the crossing guard regulation. This regulation stipulates, among others, a minimum age of 10 (!) to be allowed to stop traffic on a road with a 50 km/hr speed limit. And although most drivers are not familiar with the underlying regulation, lollipop men/women have successfully been stopping traffic for 70 years.

Directing traffic in group 6

The rules are clear... aren't they?

We know the traffic regulations and we can apply them. Nevertheless, the rules relating to compliant traffic behaviour are an obstacle. When designing complex traffic situations with different types of participants, signs and other 'clarifying' measures sometimes make it harder to assess the situation. The user, or road user, seeks guidance and will use the first instruction they see or think they see. We don't like doubt and seek certainty, even if that's sometimes a delusion.

The rules are clear... aren't they?
Shared space

Shared space

Pedestrians and drivers experience less delay in “shared space” intersections where vehicles and pedestrians mingle at slow speeds with few traffic regulations, according to a University of Connecticut study. In Sonnenplatz, Graz, Austria, the delay was 8 seconds, compared to a predicted delay of 171 seconds—nearly three minutes—with a traffic signal at that intersection.

The shared space concept omits visible, mandatory instructions. The user can no longer take refuge behind them and needs to take responsibility for how they continue their passage. A well-designed shared space promotes contact between users and allows them to positively apply the familiar rules and values. And shared space promotes compliant behaviour by supporting rules with small social and visual hints pointing them in the right direction.

“We're losing our capacity for socially responsible behaviour... The greater the number of prescriptions, the more people's sense of personal responsibility dwindles.”

Hans Monderman, traffic engineer

Designated Driver

The other successful example of traffic compliance that we all know is the Designated Driver.

The rules relating to alcohol in traffic are clear. We know them, we have been educated about them. Nevertheless, in 2002, 4.1% of people driving a car on a Friday or Saturday night had drunk too much. Fifteen years later, in 2017, that percentage had fallen to 1.4%. That's a 66% reduction in violations and accidents and victims. This compliance success was achieved by a government that, rather than coming down hard on violators, decided to hand out key fobs.

Designated Driver

Marketing & storytelling

The Designated Driver, the key fob, managed to achieve what the rule couldn't. The Designated Driver turned the sober driver into the new standard and gave people an action perspective. The campaign visualised the new standard in various ways, publicised it, made it a subject of discussion and eventually accepted. By demonstrating the correct behaviour, you can also really encourage this behaviour. Marketing techniques and storytelling are an indispensable part of this. The success is a combination of campaign, more checks and higher fines.

Marketing & storytelling

Compliance is about morality, about 'doing what's right'. In that, we are always looking for a reference framework. That context determines what's acceptable and what isn't. That framework is the story. By telling the story, compliance is given context. The young lollipop boy/girl does not gain his/her authority from the Road Traffic Act, but from the story of children crossing the road on their way to school and the resulting picture that creates for us. Through the story, the rules come to life. A good compliance programme always places rules in a recognisable context and tells the story behind the rules. That makes people think and the rest follows.

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