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Error Proofing for Drunk Drivers

The WA government’s new plans to enforce the installation of breath test immobilisers to the cars of drunk drivers is a good example of behavioural design in action.

WA Today reported that the proposed scheme will apply to those caught driving with a blood alcohol level of 0.08 or above and 0.05 or above for the second time.

Once the immobiliser has been installed, the car will only start if a person has a blood alcohol limit below 0.02, reportedly to allow a margin of error for medications etc.

The story caught our attention because it’s a great example of error proofing.

As the name suggests, error proofing may make it easier for people to avoid errors or (as in this case) make it impossible for them to make an error at all.

Error proofing is much like  ‘mistake proofing’ – a design approach used in manufacturing to reduce the likelihood of product defects by preventing or reducing the likelihood of human errors.  Mistake proofing was formalised as a concept in Japan during the 1960’s and is also known as poka-yoke.  Notably, it was originally called baka-yoke, which meant ‘fool proof’.

We digress.  The point is that error proofing is an excellent way of constraining an individuals’ choices so that alternatives to a desired behaviour are difficult or impossible to access.

WA drivers who have previously risked their lives (and the lives of others) won’t be able to do so again.  And that has to be a good thing.

Read the full WA Today article here.

Photo courtesy Flickr User jpalinsad360