Causal Attribution in Explanations of Near-Crash Events Behind the Wheel, and Its Relationship to Comparative Judgments

The development of skills essential for avoiding crashes depends, in particular, on how drivers explain the causes of dangerous driving behaviors that resulted in a near crash. Here, the authors analyze causes attributed to such behaviors by car drivers in a self-report study. The authors explore the relationships between the dimensions of causal attribution, attribution of responsibility for the near crash, and drivers' comparative judgments. For approximately two months, drivers used logbooks to document the near crashes that occurred during their trips. The causes attributed in those reports to driving behaviors resulting in near crashes were then coded by two judges on the basis of several causal dimensions. Drivers also estimated their own and an average driver's skill levels, and their risk of being involved, as a driver, in a crash. The authors distinguished main types of causes of the near crashes reported. Drivers had a tendency to more often attribute external causes to their own behaviors resulting in near crashes than to those of others. The probability of attributing a controllable cause increased with overestimation of one's own skills and decreased with underestimation of one's own risk in comparison to other drivers. The probability of attributing a stable cause increased with underestimation of one's own risk. When they explained their own behaviors resulting in near crashes, drivers mentioned different causes than when they explained those of others. Overestimation of one's own skills as compared to other drivers could be beneficial for developing crash-avoiding skills, insofar as it seems to foster attribution of controllable causes. By contrast, underestimation of one's own risk could have the opposite effect. Vulnerability to road risks should be stressed in driver’s training and risk communication campaigns. However, self-confidence with respect to one's skills should not always be targeted as a safety problem.


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  • Accession Number: 01671979
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: May 16 2018 3:30PM