Title:

White Paper on Traffic Safety Culture

URL: www.researchgate.net/publication/268359369_White_Paper_on_Traffic_Safety_Culture_Prepared_by
Summary:

A culture-based approach is complementary to, but fundamentally different in form and philosophy from traditional traffic safety interventions including engineering, enforcement, and education. By treating the origin of risk behaviors (pathogens), cultural-based interventions are proactive and transformational in their treatment approach. This paper describes the potential role of cultural transformations in our traffic safety system as well as identifying potential hazards and recommended strategies for implementing this traffic safety paradigm.

Highlights:

Fatal injury from traffic crashes represents a significant public health issue. Indeed, the World Health Organization (WHO) has estimated that traffic crashes will be the third leading cause of lost life and disability world-wide by the year 2020.  In response to this epidemic, many countries - including the U.S. - have set goals to significantly reduce traffic fatalities.
 

Traditional strategies for reducing traffic fatalities focus on risk behaviors and their consequences by training safe behaviors (education), punishing risk behaviors (enforcement), or protecting drivers from the consequences of risk behaviors (road and vehicle design). However, these strategies only address a subset of factors that affect the fatal crash rate. Accordingly, the rate of safety improvement has stalled in many jurisdictions where additional crash factors persist beyond the effect of these traditional strategies.


In response, there is speculation that one of the risk factors blocking further improvements in traffic safety is the 'culture' of the society defined by the driving population and agencies that govern transportation safetysystems. That is, a culture that tolerates or engages in risk while resisting safety interventions will propagate dangerous behaviors and impede traffic safety policy.


From a cognitive perspective, traffic safety culture can be defined as the perceptions regarding descriptive and injunctive norms that reference safe driving and those behaviors that affect traffic safety.


Traffic safety culture appears to be an intuitive and powerful concept with which to explain observed differences in international, regional, and demographic crash risk, as well as the propensity to commit high risk behaviors. If it is possible to define and apply this concept within a relevant social psychological theory of behavioral choice, it may be possible to develop a new paradigm for traffic safety interventions. Indeed, there are numerous examples of the effectiveness of traffic safety interventions predicated on the effect of culture on behavioral choice.


A culture-based approach is complementary to, but fundamentally different in form and philosophy from, traditional traffic safety interventions including engineering, enforcement, and education. This difference can be summarized in relation to the goals and methods used to change driver behavior. The traffic safety culture paradigm transforms the culture that motivates and supports risky decisions to engage in dangerous behaviors and reject safety interventions. The focus is on analyzing and modifying the social and cognitive context of decisions as the impetus to behave. By treating the origin of risk behaviors (pathogens), cultural-based interventions are pre-emptive, comprehensive, and transformational in their treatment approach.


Any short-term view of using culture as a strategy to quickly change behaviors must be contrasted against a plethora of research demonstrating that culture is held together by core assumptions that must be transformed. In this sense, interventions based on traffic safety culture are a form of transformative education. Moreover, a transformational model of traffic safety must recognize the need for transformation to occur at all levels of the socio-ecological continuum.


This paper describes the potential role of cultural transformations in our traffic safety system as well as identifying potential hazards and recommended strategies for implementing this traffic safety paradigm. Even with crude estimates of $28 billion annual saving in crash reductions and a $6 billion annual cost in implementation, we should be encouraged by the prospect that the new traffic safety culture paradigm may offer a cost-benefit ratio greater than 4:1.

Topics: Safety, Road safety
Location:  
Resource Type: strategies and interventions
Publisher: U.S. Department of Transpportation via ResearchGate
Date Last Updated: 2018-10-09 14:49:38

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