Road Traffic Accidents, Risk Attitudes and Behaviour Among Adolescents

Road Traffic Accidents, Risk Attitudes and Behaviour Among Adolescents


S H Jorgensen, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, NO



The paper aims to investigate aspects of risk-taking behaviour and motor vehicle accidents among adolescents in a geographical setting. This project is funded by ?The Risk and Safety in Transport Programme (RISIT) in the Norwegian Research Council.

Recent trends in the accident pattern for motorised people aged 16 ? 24 year are explored in relation to other age groups in Norway. The total number of injured or killed motorists (16-24 years) in the period 1998 ? 2002 was about 11500. The analyses are based on nationwide police reported road traffic accident data. Some data accuracy issues in the data set are discussed.

Accident data are supplemented by data on traffic offences (police controls for use of seat belts, alcohol or drugs) in 8 municipalities during a five-year period. Moreover, a questionnaire study including self-reported accidents and ?near accident? situations from a sample of about 900 ? 1000 youths in these 8 municipalities, is incorporated to achieve a broader risk-taking behaviour perspective.

Characteristics of the geographical context of these areas in terms of physical and social environments (road network, posted speed limits, built-up areas, and also education level, occupation rates in various industries, and other structural variables) are scrutinized.

Road safety policy consequences can apply an ?engineering? approach versus a ?behavioural? approach. These approaches offer different means to reduce the accident levels. Engineering countermeasures consist of technical and physical solutions involving the vehicles (?alcohol-lock?) and the road system (road quality improvements. use of rash barriers separating opposite carriageways).

Behavioural road safety efforts imply a change in individual attitudes and behaviour regarding drinking and driving, non-use of seatbelt, speeding, and so on. Furthermore efforts involve influencing collective behaviour which might be embedded in the existence of different safety cultures and group values influencing careless driving. The paper deals with some geographical differences both in terms of ?engineering? and ?behavioural? safety strategies.

The complexity of accident patterns may call for ?tailor-made? road safety policies. Several municipalities are now operationalising and launching ?Vision Zero? plans with different targets such as emphasising accident prevention (local safety campaigns) versus reducing the consequences of crashes (physical countermeasures).

Adolescents are a critical group regarding attitudes towards the value system and strategies inherent in the ?Vision?. Risk attitudes and trade-off between safety, freedom, boldness and sensation seeking, will be discussed. Adolescent?s acceptance and tolerance of various countermeasures proposed in the Vision Zero are presented.


Association for European Transport