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1.7 Acquiring authority - Standard, English Studies, EAL/D

Authority is gained through credibility (believability and trust). Credibility comes from:

  • Authority expert figures
  • Trustworthy statements based on knowledge and experience of the world and of people
  • Evidence that is collected including numbers, statistics, and individual case studies (subjective and objective data)
  • a persuasive form, format, mode and medium.

It is when all of these steps are taken that we believe the information. In other words, even if a government institution seems powerful it is only powerful when we believe it: we bestow authority. That is why even the Centre for Road Safety has to work hard to get its message across to us.

Adopting authority

Taking charge

Communicating with authority

Adopting authority

There are some professions that we respect automatically: the medical profession is one of those professions, particularly specialists on whom we depend for our quality of life. A campaign encouraging people not to rush when driving is supported by the Australian Medical Association features a trustworthy and respected figure, the neurosurgeon Dr Owler. 
Look at the different versions of the Don’t Rush advertisement, then complete the worksheet 1.7.1 Don’t Rush (Std, ES and EAL/D):

Have a look at the Don’t Rush storyboard and finish the worksheet.

Taking charge

The ‘Don’t Rush’ campaign has two targets: 

  • passengers 
  • drivers.

Why? How could the passenger be relevant? 

Look at the Speeding: How sorry will you be? 'Don't Rush' advertisement 

Map out the message of the ‘Don’t Rush’ advertisement in a diagram. Make sure you show choices and consequences.   
You may want to use this format:

To what extent do you, as a user of this interactive, have authority over the text? Consider:

  • when and where you choose to change the story of the text
  • the range of choices offered to you
  • whether you can compose anything individual with that text.

The strategy of this advertisement transfers authority from outside bodies and circumstances to you, the passenger. Do you think it is effective? Why? On what might your exercise of authority depend in this situation? Discuss this in your class.

Understanding the world

To have authority one needs to understand the world and how institutions work. The Centre for Road Safety always acts from real data. They study the accident statistics, they perceive a problem, they work out who the target groups are. From there, they devise the best way possible to help the community while being aware of the negative reactions of some target groups to their authority. It’s a long and complex process. 

Activity: Unjumble

Here are some processes that have to take place before any advertising. List them in what you think should be the correct order: 

  • Decide on a campaign strategy 
  • Locate Problem 
  • Draw conclusions interpret and analyse the data using experts such as mathematicians and psychologists 
  • Publish the report
  • Collect data (statistics, individual cases) 
  • Design and conduct research 

The role of statistics and research 

How does the Centre for Road Safety decide what campaigns to produce?
The Centre for Road Safety identifies issues that impact on road safety through the analysis of data on road crashes, fatalities and serious injuries. This statistical data is gathered from a variety of sources.

Have a look at some of these statistics by downloading the road Toll documents from the website.

Understanding people and yourself

Knowledge of the world is important but to be effective one needs knowledge of people, their motivations and their reactions. The Centre for Road Safety is certainly interested in the analysis of road crash data but this is only the first step in maintaining authority sufficient to influence people in a democratic society. To understand the human factors, the centre commissions research on how driver behaviour can cause crashes. 

The 2012 Driver Fatigue Quantitative and Qualitative Study helps to understand:

  • the nature of fatigue
  • driver attitudes to fatigue
  • how we can tell we are fatigued and
  • ways to prevent fatigue related accidents.

Read the warning signs of fatigue on page 8 and complete the student worksheet 1.7.2 Fatigue problem definition (Std, ES and EAL/D).

Communicating with authority

The table below shows what the research tells us about driving when tired.

Discuss whether you think there is there enough evidence for the ‘most relevant to’ conclusions made?  

Which do you perceive as the biggest problems for your own friendship group?

Top 5 Key Points to Remember From the Research

1. Drivers want to 'push on' and fail to respond to early warning signs

  • Do not want to stop if close to reaching destination, no matter how tired.
  • Only likely to stop when close, if they have a microsleep, almost crash or need a toilet break.
  • Most relevant to: Younger males
2. Few drivers plan trips to avoid fatigue
  • Younger drivers fail to plan breaks (or time for breaks) in journey, and don't plan to avoid starting a journey when fatigue may be an issue (e.g. when sleep deprived).
  • Planning mainly for car (oil, tyres etc.) or kids (snacks, entertainment etc.).
  • Most relevant to: Younger drivers, especially males
3. Driving performance is unpredictable when fatigued
  • Fatigue causes temporary lapses in attention.
  • This instability & unpredictability impacts driving performance
  • Most relevant to: All drivers
4. Drivers are unable to accurately assess their own driving fatigue 
  • Can tell getting drowsy, but can't judge when need to stop driving
  • Unsure how tired is too tired, and at a dangerous level.
  • Most relevant to: All drivers 
5. Fatigue in the afternoon is common but dismissed
  • Afternoon is a peak time for experiencing fatigue, particularly for older drivers.
  • Afternoon fatigue often dismissed
  • Most relevant to: Older drivers, especially males 

Once research around an issue has been completed, the Centre for Road Safety develops a Problem Definition which outlines the issues around driver fatigue to help inform and guide a new campaign. These documents carry the weight of government authority and this is clear through the structure, information and use of language. 

Scan the broad features of the document, without reading too closely, and complete the table on page 1 of student worksheet 1.7.2 Fatigue problem definition (Std, ES and EAL/D), describing each feature of the report and explaining how it conveys a sense of authority. 

Look closely at the crash statistics on pages 2 and 3 of the worksheet and discuss the following questions in your groups:

  • How has the use of questions as subheadings made the report easier to read?
  • Which question do you think is the most important for understanding crashes?   
  • Which part of the report has the most impact for you as a reader – the titles, the statistics, the opening commentary or the dot points? Why?

The effectiveness of the document relies on whether we perceive it as having authority to comment on these matters.

Complete the sentence starters on page 4 of the worksheet.

Last update: 17th July 2019