Psychology and Policing

By Neil Brewer; Carlene Wilson | Go to book overview

2
Driver Behavior and Road Safety

Brian Fildes Monash University Accident Research Centre

Driver behavior has long been recognized as a major cause of road crashes. Treat et al. ( 1977) and Sabey ( 1980) pointed out that human factors, either alone or in conjunction with the road environment or the vehicle, accounted for roughly 90% of crashes in the United States and Great Britain at that time. Recent estimates suggest that the situation has not changed appreciably in recent years ( Bowie & Walz, 1991; Haworth & Rechnitzer, 1993).

There have been impressive reductions in the road toll over the last 30 years throughout most of the Western world. In Australia, Vulcan ( 1990, 1993) and others have reported reductions in the rate of fatal crashes from over 8 to well below 2 persons killed per 10,000 registered vehicles during this time period. Much of this improvement is claimed to have been derived from indirect changes in road user behavior through programs such as improved vehicle safety, better roads and cars, and greater use of seat belts, the so-called "engineering measures." However, there is some evidence that behavioral change through police enforcement has also contributed to reductions in the road toll over this period. Campaigns aimed at reducing the incidence of drink-driving1 and speeding have had some influence, particularly in recent years in Australia (this evidence is reviewed later in this chapter).

Nevertheless, given the overwhelming preponderance of human factor causes in road crashes, there is clearly an urgent need for new programs aimed at changing motorists behavior on the road if current trends are to continue. Obviously, the role of police enforcement (in conjunction with greater education and

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1
The term drink-driving is used throughout and refers to driving while intoxicated.

-31-

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