Academic journal article North American Journal of Psychology

Causes of Traffic Accidents as Perceived by Pre-Driving Adolescents

Academic journal article North American Journal of Psychology

Causes of Traffic Accidents as Perceived by Pre-Driving Adolescents

Article excerpt

Young drivers (17-23) are over-represented in crashes and road fatalities throughout the world (OECD, 2006; Williams, 2003). The principal factors that may lead to this problem are inexperience, immaturity, inaccurate risk perception, overestimation of driving skills, and risk-taking (Edwards, 2001). It is argued that in order to change a behavior, it is necessary to identify the cognitions underlying the decision to perform the action and to change the behavior (Fishbein & Middlestadt, 1989). Cognitions in this context may refer to opinions towards road accidents, attitudes towards safety as well as assessments of road use behaviors. These may reflect thinking of people about how and why things happen and hence predict future behavior (Vanlaar, Simpson, Mayhew & Robertson, 2008). The current study was designed to explore young adolescents' opinions about the main reasons for road crashes. As stressed by the Social Norms Theory the way that people perceive as a norm may affect their behavior so that it will be in accordance with the perceived social norm of the group (Perkins & Berkowitz, 1986).

To the best of our knowledge this is the first study that examines these aspects of social norms regarding the perceived causes of road crashes. In general, opinions towards road safety have been found to be related to safer behavior (Vanlaar, Simpson, Mayhew & Robertson, 2008).

Furthermore, assessment of motivations to violate traffic laws may influence behavior (Forward, 2009). A previous study (Moran, BaronEpel & Assi, 2010) revealed that causes for road accidents perceived by Arabs in Israel are correlated with their manner of driving. Because youngsters' beliefs about the causes of traffic accidents may shed light on beliefs and intentions in this area, we aimed to investigate youngsters' (15 year olds) beliefs about the causes of road accidents.

Age and Driving

Young drivers have been found to have higher rates of accidents than older drivers (e.g. Lafont, et al., 2008; Rosenbloom & Wolf, 2002). This could be a correlate of young drivers' lack of motivation to adhere to traffic laws. Whereas older drivers (above 30-years old) have a stronger sense of obligation to obey traffic laws and have more positive attitudes towards traffic-law enforcement by police (Yagil, 1998a), younger drivers (17-23) perceive traffic laws as less important (Yagil, 1998b). This may be related to their attitude towards authority, and especially to the police (Forward, 2009; Kanellaidis, Golias, & Zarifopoulos, 1995; Tuohy & Wrennall, 1995).

Ironically, younger drivers, the more at-risk drivers, rate their own driving ability higher than older drivers rate themselves (Matthews & Moran, 1986). Thus, younger drivers are characterized by an overestimation of their driving abilities, and by an underestimation of the dangers involved in driving, although there is contradictory evidence as well (e.g., Gylfason, Thorisdottir & Peersen, 2004).

According to Stradling (1991) and Harre, Brandt and Dawe (2000), the age at which young people develop a strong interest in driving and form attitudes about appropriate driving behavior is now around 11-13 years. A study of attitudes and behaviors of teens revealed that drivers in their middle teens display less reckless behavior than drivers who are slightly older, a trend that is seen in earlier adolescence as well: those aged 14-15 years displayed less risky attitudes towards driving than those aged 16-17 years (Harre, Brandt & Dawe, 2000). In contrast, other studies indicate that youngsters that did not hold a driving license were more willing to commit traffic violations than were provisional and full license holders (Rowe, Andrews & Harris, 2013). Therefore, it is important to investigate the pre-drivers' way of thinking on road safety. Researchers (Mann & Lansdown, 2009; Pinsky, Labouvie, Pandina, & Laranjeira, 2001; Rowe et al, 2013; Rowe, Andrews, Harris, Armitage, McKenna & Norman, 2016; Waylen, & McKenna, 2008) became aware of the great importance of starting educational programs for pre-drivers about safe road use as early as possible, so that a positive attitude towards driving safety may be preserved and enhanced. …

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