The Making of Driving Cultures

Culture is the mechanism through which we come to understand ourselves and our relationship to the world. In the U.S., cars and driving are intimately connected to our individual and collective sense of self - who we are, what we believe, value, and aspire to achieve, and how we interact with others. The preeminence of cars and driving in American culture makes the relative silence on the high number of deaths and injuries due to car crashes a perplexing phenomenon. Although total U.S. fatalities from recent high-profile catastrophes -- the Oklahoma City bombing, shootings at Columbine High School, terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, and Hurricane Katrina -- combined have numbered less than 5,000, these deaths and the events that caused them have had considerable influence on the American political economic, and cultural landscapes. In contrast, the 42, 636 lives lost in 2004 alone as a result of vehicle crashes on U.S. roadways barely registered in the collective consciousness of the American public. How can we lose an average of 116 lives each day in crashes that are largely preventable and not have more public outcry, media coverage, and government intervention? Our apparent complacency - both individual and organizational - presents a clear challenge that may best be addressed by approaching driving and traffic safety as effects of culture. In order to understand culture's role in shaping driving behavior, however, we must first critically reflect on the concept of "culture." What is culture? Can it change? Who is involved in its construction? In this chapter the authors make the case for an explicitly theorized notion of culture. They argue that how the traffic safety community defines culture dictates courses of action taken in the effort to decrease fatalities, injuries and property loss.


  • English

Media Info

  • Media Type: Print
  • Features: Figures; References;
  • Pagination: pp 59-76
  • Monograph Title: Improving Traffic Safety Culture in the United States - The Journey Forward

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01051427
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: Jun 4 2007 1:28PM