Changing the Safety Culture: What Can We Learn from Community Applications?


Ron Van Houten, Ph.D.
Western Michigan University
Professor of Psychology

This talk will examine how strategies employed to increase safety in traffic safety applications can be applied in industrial safety applications. Studies on the use of packages to used to change driving behavior on a citywide basis will be presented. Some of the issues that will be addressed are: The importance of setting up motivating operations to increase acceptance and sustain the change; the importance of using behavior tools to influence social norming; the use of feedback systems and prompting system timed to prompt behavior change at the time it needs to occur; the use of video modeling to maintain safety skills; and the use of technology to change behavior. 

Dr. Van Houten received his BA from SUNY at Stony Brook and his MA and Ph.D. from Dalhousie University where he received training in the Experimental Analysis of Behavior. He is currently Professor of Psychology at Western Michigan University. Dr. Van Houten has published extensively in JABA on a wide variety of problems, ranging from the education of inner city youth and children with “learning disabilities”, the treatment of children and adults with developmental delays, the treatment of clinical problems in children, traffic safety, energy conservation, and aviation safety.

Currently Dr. Van Houten is a member of the Transportation Research Board and a member of the National Committee for Uniform Traffic Control Devices. He is a past AE for the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis and a Fellow of the ABAI. Dr. Van Houten received award for Scientific Translation Promoting the Impact of Science on Application award from the Society for the Advancement of Behavior Analysis (SABA) in 2015 and the Patricia F. Waller Award from the Transportation Research Board (of the National Academies of Sciences conferred in 2014 for his work on changing the driving culture on a city wide basis. Follow-up data show that the behavior change actually increased further at a four-year follow-up measure. He is also an avid pilot flying power aircraft and gliders and a flight instructor.