Nudging Mexico City drivers into feeling co-responsible for everyone’s safety: a new license issuing form

Taking a course and a comprehensive driving test has not been a mandatory requirement to issue a driver's license in Mexico City and implementing such a system is not simple. The City is building institutional capabilities to effectively implement mandatory courses and tests to improve road safety. Meanwhile, SEMOVI has modified the issuing license form to nudge applicants into feeling co-responsible for road safety and refraining from driving if they deem themselves incapable of doing it safely.

Innovation Summary

Innovation Overview

Mexico City has never required comprehensive and mandatory driving courses and tests for persons aiming to get their driver's licenses. Years ago, there was a test consisting of random and arbitrary questions about the Transit Regulations that, by design, usually ended in a corrupt exchange to avoid the test. Now, the City is building the institutional capabilities to implement courses and a test as requisite to obtain a license, granting that those persons who pass the test are qualified to drive.

While this system is built, SEMOVI implemented a behaviourally-inspired intervention to nudge license applicants into refraining from driving if they deem themselves incapable of doing it safely, by inducing a sense of co-responsibility towards others' safety.

The original process implied paying for the license and going to a SEMOVI office only to sign the document and place a fingerprint on it. Reading the document was not even necessary to complete the process and it did not provide salient information that would make future drivers aware of the responsibility that driving a car is.

The document privileged the driver's personal information and had two small print boxes with legal information that did not make the consequences of not driving properly or not knowing the rules explicit. Thus, this old format triggered behavioural biases among applicants:
- Status quo bias: the old process did not require any real effort to grasp and process information
- Thinking fast heuristics: the process makes you focus on the personal information section and then it only requires you to sign, without having to pay attention to anything else
- Social norms: everybody assumes that driving without proper training and testing your capabilities is what everybody does so it must be okay
- Availability bias: individuals do not grasp the importance of the rules contained in the small print, as if it did not exist
-Optimism bias: since people who are not fully able to drive get a license as a secondary ID document, disregarding the implications and risks of driving, especially without proper training and information

The innovation consists of changing the format of the licence application. The new format has a manifesto in which the applicant, under oath, declares and signs that she:
- Can read and write
- Is providing true information
- Meets the requirements for obtaining a driver's license and has the expertise to drive in Mexico City
- Knows the contents of the Transit Regulations, as well as the obligations that you acquire as a driver and the sanctions to which you are creditor in case of default
- Is physically and mentally fit to drive or, if she requires a special attachment, agrees to drive only if she and/or the vehicle has it

Also, the person has to read a paragraph out loud in which she expresses that she is aware of what the good practices driving in the city are. After that, the person who grants the license has to read a paragraph to express the responsibility that she has when granting a driver's license to the applicant. The format has a specific space for the public official in charge to comment on the suitability of the applicant, which is not an impediment to receiving the license and does not become an opportunity for corruption.
That is why, this intervention:
- Creates barriers to make the process more thoughtful, but doesn’t represent an opportunity for corruption
- Makes people “think slow”, signing on their responsibilities, one by one
- Makes the responsibility of requesting the license more salient
- Implements an oath to make being a responsible driver a more socially desirable trait and makes the risk of driving without knowing the rules visible
- The observations on the suitability of the applicant that the public official is required to write on the document seeks to remind her of the responsibility she bears when granting a license
- Writing these observations does not represent a reason for denying the license (i.e. it is not a chance for corruption) but it is visible for the applicant (social pressure)

The pilot was implemented in 8 service offices for a month (Jan 2019). After the test, the innovation was evaluated with a diff in diff test. The results showed a reduction of 5.32 daily new licenses issued in the pilot modules compared to the control modules at the time and the same pilot offices during the same month of the previous years (Jan 2018 and 2017). It means, daily, 5.2 persons, who do not know how to drive, postponing the obtention of the license.
A remarkable fact to mention: in order to attend a SEMOVI office, citizens have to pay the license (44 USD) at the Finance Secretary first. This means that those 5.2 persons declined or delayed the obtention of a license they already paid just because of the effect the new format had on them.
This innovation was inspired by behavioural insights about integrity and tax compliance (Ariely et al. 2012; Behavioral Insights Team 2012)

Innovation Description

Innovation Development

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Year: 2019
Level of government: Regional/State government

Status:

  • Implementation - making the innovation happen

Innovation provided by:

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