The role of control in risk perception on rural roads


Risk perception plays an important role in driver behaviour, particularly for speed choice. Risk perception studies use a range of techniques from on-road data collection to ratings of still photos, however participants’ratings differ depending on the study methodology, possibly due to their perception of control. To explore this we conducted a multiple methods study to investigate drivers’perceptions of risk on rural roads. One group of participants drove (Drivers, n = 13) a 180 km route along rural roads (accompanied by a research assistant) and provided verbal risk ratings at thirteen locations of interest. A second group (Passengers, n = 10) provided ratings at the same points when travelling as a passenger in a vehicle (driven by a research assistant). The third group (Observers, n = 14) were shown videos of the same rural roads (filmed from the drivers’perspective) and also provided risk ratings at the same locations. A week later participants were invited to the laboratory to review the video footage and comment on factors that contributed to the risk ratings. Overall, the Observers gave the highest risk ratings and Drivers the lowest. The Observers also provided twice the number of comments to justify their risk rating compared to the other two groups. The results suggest that control, and on-road experience play a significant role in how perceptions of driving risk are formed and the degree of risk experienced.These findings also bring into question the accuracy of using video-based tasks to assess drivers’ risk perception (and speed choice), particularly if the findings are used to inform on-road safety interventions

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This paper was published in Research Commons@Waikato.

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