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Social influences on Chinese drivers : cultural context and traffic law enforcement

By Judy J. Fleiter, Barry C. Watson, Alexia J. Lennon, Mark J. King and Kan Shi


Reducing road crashes and associated trauma is a critical focus as the Decade of Action for Road Safety commences. China is one of many rapidly-motorizing nations to experience recent increases in private-vehicle ownership and an associated escalation in novice drivers. Unfortunately, however, China also experiences a high rate of death and injury from road crashes. Several key pieces of legislation have been introduced in recent decades in China to deal with these changes. While managing the legal aspects of road use is important, social influences on driver behaviour may offer additional avenues for promoting safe driving, particularly in a culture where such factors carry high importance. To date, there is limited research on the role of social influence factors on driver behaviour in China, yet we know that Chinese society is strongly based on social rules, customs, and relationships. There is reason to assume therefore, that road use and driving-related issues may also be strongly influenced by social relationships. One previous study that has investigated such issues highlighted the need to consider culturally-specific issues such as interpersonal networks and social hierarchy when examining driver behaviour in China (Xie & Parker, 2002). Those authors suggested that there are some concepts relating to Chinese driving culture that may not necessarily have been identified from research conducted in western contexts and that research conducted in China must be considered in light of such concepts. The current paper reports qualitative research conducted with Beijing drivers to investigate such social influence factors. Findings indicated that family members, friends, and driving instructors appear influential on driver behaviour and that some novice drivers seek additional assistance after obtaining their licence. The finding relating to the influence of driving instructors was not surprising, given the substantial number of new drivers in China. In Beijing, driving instruction is conducted off-road in purpose-specific driving facilities rather than on the road network. Once licensed, it is common for new drivers to have little or no experience driving in complex traffic situations. This learning situation is unlikely to provide all the skills necessary to successfully negotiate crowded city streets and assess the related risk associated with such driving. Therefore, it was not surprising to find that one reported strategy to assist new drivers was to employ the services of an ‘accompanying driver’ to provide ongoing driving instruction once licensed. In more highly motorised countries supervised practice is part of a graduated licensing system where it is compulsory for new drivers to be supervised by a more experienced driver for a requisite period of time before progressing to solo driving. However, as this system is not in place in China, it appears that some drivers seek out and pay for additional support once they commence on-road driving. Additionally, strategies to avoid detection and penalties for inappropriate road use were discussed, many of which involve the use of a third person. These findings indicate potential barriers to implementing effective traffic enforcement and highlight the importance of understanding culturally-specific social factors relating to driver behaviour

Topics: 150703 Road Transportation and Freight Services, 170100 PSYCHOLOGY, Chinese driver, traffic accident
Year: 2011
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