Addiction Therapy Applied to Car Use

It’s no secret that as a global society we are addicted to automobile use. It’s also no secret that cars are literally killing us (just starting the engine causes harm) and the way we have built cities to cater to drivers has damaged society from our health to our social well-being. But just knowing these facts won’t change people’s behaviour, much like how gamblers know they won’t always win but keep on playing.

How do we change this self-destructive behaviour? In the UK “motivational interviewing” is being used to help people kick their car habit.

“We’re not guilt-tripping people. It’s really easy to do that in behavior change,” says SDG’s Eleni Harlan. “Rather than us telling them the benefits or what the facts are or what other people think, it’s about guiding them through the process of what would motivate them.”

Often working with local governments, SDG identifies areas with the potential to reduce car use or increase use of more sustainable modes. While community-based travel programs in the United States often rely on direct mailing, SDG deploys at least a dozen advisors to knock on thousands of doors in the area. One recent two-year program in the city of Ely visited more than 8,000 households in a few months; another, along a corridor in the West Midlands, visited 17,500.

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