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Driver attitude and attribution : implications for accident prevention

By Diane Clay


This study involved self-completion questionnaire-based surveys in which a total of almost 1800 respondents took part. Attributional bias identified by previous research in relation to drivers' causal attributions for road accidents (Preston & Harris, 1965; Clay, 1987) was more fully explored with the aid of both objectively and subjectively culpable driver samples. Banks et al (1977) demonstrated the utility of distinguishing drivers according to culpability in relation to accident fatalaties. The current study examined the utility of distinguishing subjectively culpable, non-culpable, and non-accident driver groups in relation to road accidents with a variety of consequences, in relation to factors which may predispose drivers to accident involvement. This study involved a large sample of drivers who were representative of the general population of licenced drivers in Britain, and specifically focussed samples which allowed the influence of objective and subjective culpability to be ascertained, while a relatively small cross-cultural survey allowed a focus on young drivers (up to 25 years), involving Victorian (Australian) licenced drivers and a sub-sample of young British drivers drawn from the main British sample. The main objectives of the current study were to evaluate drivers' awareness of their potential for active accident avoidance, exploring attribution issues raised by previous research and examining factors which may contribute to road accidents in relation to self-reported accident involvement and culpability and their implications for accident prevention. The main findings were that drivers seemed to have a tendency to attribute more responsibility to "other drivers" than to themselves for accidents in which they had been involved, and to consider that such other drivers had more scope for accident avoidance than they did themselves. Such tendencies, although very considerably reduced, were not eradicated within the driver group deemed culpable by traffic police investigative teams. These findings were broadly consistent with those of Clay (1987) and Preston & Harris (1965), suggesting a lack of awareness of personal influence on accident occurrence, at least to some degree, with implications for accident prevention, the quality of social interaction in the driving environment (Knapper & Cropley, 1980), and the driver's potential to learn from experience. Perhaps more importantly, the other major finding was that clear distinctions could nonetheless be made between drivers in accordance with self-reported accident involvement and culpability in relation to driver affect/state, self-perception, attributions for accident causation, and attitudinal/behavioural tendencies, in a manner which seemed to be meaningful in terms of driver susceptibility to accident risk. Ile pattern of response for accident involvement and culpability effects was then examined in relation to the norms which emerged for age and sex, while the effects of driving experience duration and intensity were examined separately. The second point of focus on any distinctive features of younger driver risk, also allowed assessment of generalizability of findings across cultures, to some degree. The findings appear to have considerable implications for the development of effective accident prevention strategies, while suggesting that further exploration of drivers' causal attribution bias in relation to road accidents and distinctions between drivers according to subjective culpability may offer considerable safety benefits

Publisher: Cranfield University
Year: 1995
OAI identifier:
Provided by: Cranfield CERES

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