Driving risk perceptions | Scoins.net | DJS

Driving risk perceptions

 One survey found that more than a quarter of drivers admitted to hand-held mobile phone use, at least occasionally. [51]

Research consistently shows that most drivers consider themselves to be above average at driving. Statistically speaking, of course, this is highly unlikely. But this “self-enhancement bias” gives drivers a rationale for believing their mobile phone use is safe, while condemning others for doing the same thing.

Phone-using drivers justify their behaviour by claiming they are able to modify their mobile phone use dependent on the driving situation, such as limiting use on busy roads. They believe they are able to multitask and mitigate the risk in a way that other drivers cannot. 

Oh dear, 'perceptions of risk' issues writ large. One of which is the perception that, if not caught, this is accepted and acceptable behaviour. Seen at school every day, on the streets on every occasion – but not in Scandinavian countries, we're told. What do we have to do to have laws that we agree with enough to follow? This may be a government problem or only a social one – or even both, if the perception of 'what applies to me' is dependent upon believing that the government is genuinely representative.

The report for TRL which shows the results from focus groups [52] is remarkably helpful. 

Risks are recognised in three categories, each on a scale and partly independent of each other. (from [52], my version)

emotional       <----------------->  cognitive

unknown risk  <-----------------> identified risk        ......the perceived risk is/is not recognised and predictable

unmanageable <-----------------> manageable        ......perceived ability to manage the risk on two fronts, of capability (physical and psychological) and opportunity (physical and social). [52]

Similarly there were several identified categories of feeling safe or unsafe; the road, the vehicles, and the people who subdivided into self, other road users (nearby, I think) and road users in general.

The customer for [52] was the Highways Authority.  They are always looking for ways to make the road environment safer. Which might mean 'not our fault'. To this end TRL aims to maintain common objectives—golden rules—of space, visibility, clarity and familiarity. 

Do read [52] yourself. We perceive 'safety' in relative terms but males, newer cars, happy confident drivers, correlate to feeling safe. Generally HGV and motorcyclists felt less safe and the converses of the positive list above apply – being female, in an older car and so on. If your immediate responses include that young males have too much confidence and for bad reasons, I'll agree.

Actually, discussion showed that feeling safe is a collection of negatives, a state of not perceiving unusual or changed risk.  Participants across all groups felt that car drivers showed a lack of empathy towards others on the roads. There's a hint for action; I would agree and see considerate patience as a virtue I did not have thirty years ago. It certainly helps to have driven a variety of vehicle, such as m'bike, a lorry, a loaded van, a towing vehicle. Perhaps we should make this happen.Familiarity was seen as a two-edged sword, in that it improved predictability but that one then came to rely on 'everyone' behaving as expected. Which adds to the 'unsafe' perception of someone new to a neighbourhood. Traffic density was perceived as an issue, translated into a wider concept of having space (which includes things like the two-second gap).

 DJS 20211207


[51]  https://theconversation.com/drivers-and-hand-held-mobile-phones-extending-the-ban-wont-solve-the-problem-heres-why-172327?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Latest%20from%20The%20Conversation%20for%20November%2025%202021%20-%202126821054&utm_content=Latest%20from%20The%20Conversation%20for%20November%2025%202021%20-%202126821054+CID_3752c5303927a3a7f2640fedb8f6918b&utm_source=campaign_monitor_uk&utm_term=Hands-free%20devices%20are%20no%20less%20distracting

Drivers with self-enhancement bias also often demonstrate “crash risk optimism” – judging themselves to be at lower risk of a crash compared to other drivers.  In a sense, every journey a self-perceived above-average driver successfully completes while using a mobile phone appears to confirm to them that their behaviour is appropriate, and the law is aimed at other drivers. This helps to explain why strong support for a tightened law in this area can coexist with high rates of offending.    For these over-confident drivers, perhaps the only deterrent would be the threat of enforcement. But in recent years, numbers of dedicated roads-policing officers in the UK have declined, and the public has, apparently, noticed. In one survey, 54% of respondents felt they were unlikely to be caught or punished for using a hand-held mobile phone while driving.

In-vehicle distractions, such as interactive screens on the dashboard and digital assistants like Alexa, are developing more quickly than the law can keep up with.   If we want to reduce the number of people killed and seriously injured each year by drivers using their mobile phones, we have to persuade drivers not to do it regardless of whether or not they’ll get caught.

We need to challenge the narratives that drivers regularly deploy to justify their behaviour, and address driver biases head-on by providing education, based on psychological evidence, that’s harder for drivers to resist or deny. Interactive education, which allows drivers to experience their own distraction, rather than hearing about the failures of others, would be a good place to start.

[52]  https://trl.co.uk/uploads/trl/documents/PPR953_Perceptions-of-safety_FINAL.pdf    Better, much. 2019. 45pp. of main body, 70 pp total. This does discuss what changes might have effect, unlike [54].

[53] https://www.researchgate.net/publication/310806502_How_do_we_perceive_traffic_risk Unhelpful. 

[54] https://orca.cardiff.ac.uk/97741/1/265.pdf   Perceptions of Risk Factors for Road Traffic Accidents AP &H Smith, Cardiff U 2017  cited quite often. I read it as a small survey asking people about their perceptions but not making headway in what we might do about that.

why?  Email: David@Scoins.net      © David Scoins 2021