Transportation systems in the industrialized world require vast amounts of economic and human resources. Most of the risks associated with these systems are due to the frequent use of private cars. This paper gives a review of the literature and psychological facts which may explain why the individual driver and modern society seem willing to accept higher risks in road transportation than in most other activities. Risky driving behavior may depend on (a) a driver's overestimation of his driving skill in a particular situation, (b) his conscious decision to drive under high risk or (c) his failure to perceive risk in a particular situation. It is pointed out that different means must be used in order to affect a change in these factors, mainly, training programs, the spread of information to change drivers' attitudes towards traffic risks, and environmental design changes to subjective risk. In general, empirical research indicates that greater risks are accepted if some kind of control is experienced in a situation and this is especially applicable to driving. Objective and subjective estimates of the riskiness of different elements inherent in road traffic seem to coincide fairly well with regard to a road's physical characteristics. But objective risks are underestimated in relation to speed, black spots, night driving, and narrow roads. The importance of these factors, and of alcohol intoxication and imitative behaviour for risk taking, is discussed. Comparisons of the estimated risks of different transportation systems and other risk sources are discussed. The attribution of the responsibility for an accident is very important for the risks accepted by a society. If the responsibility can be attributed to individual risk takers, as in car driving, society is willing to accept higher risk levels. Finally, the prevailing within-system perspective on risks in road transportation is contrasted with the more important and difficult global perspective which puts the risks of the road transportation system in a societal context.

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  • Accession Number: 00195018
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Report/Paper Numbers: HS-025 289
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: Jul 11 1979 12:00AM