Helsingin yliopisto


Helsingin yliopiston verkkojulkaisut

University of Helsinki, Helsinki 2006

The regional differences between countries in traffic safety: A cross-cultural study and Turkish Case

Türker Özkan

Doctoral dissertation, October 2006.
University of Helsinki, Faculty of Behavioural Sciences, Department of Psychology, Traffic Reseach Unit and Middle East Technical University.

Road traffic accidents are a large problem everywhere in the world. However, regional differences in traffic safety between countries are considerable. For example, traffic safety records are much worse in Southern Europe and the Middle East than in Northern and Western Europe. Despite the large regional differences in traffic safety, factors contributing to different accident risk figures in different countries and regions have remained largely unstudied. The general aim of this study was to investigate regional differences in traffic safety between Southern European/Middle Eastern (i.e., Greece, Iran, Turkey) and Northern/Western European (i.e., Finland, Great Britain, The Netherlands) countries and to identify factors related to these differences. We conducted seven sub-studies in which I applied a traffic culture framework, including a multi-level approach, to traffic safety. We used aggregated level data (national statistics), surveys among drivers, and data on traffic accidents and fatalities in the analyses. In the first study, we investigated the influence of macro level factors (i.e., economic, societal, and cultural) on traffic safety across countries. The results showed that a high GNP per capita and conservatism correlated with a low number of traffic fatalities, whereas a high degree of uncertainty avoidance, neuroticism, and egalitarianism correlated with a high number of traffic fatalities. In the second, third, and fourth studies, we examined whether the conceptualisation of road user characteristics (i.e., driver behaviour and performance) varied across traffic cultures and how these factors determined overall safety, and the differences between countries in traffic safety. The results showed that the factorial agreement for driver behaviour (i.e., aggressive driving) and performance (i.e., safety skills) was unsatisfactory in Greece, Iran, and Turkey, where the lack of social tolerance and interpersonal aggressive violations seem to be important characteristics of driving. In addition, we found that driver behaviour (i.e., aggressive violations and errors) mediated the relationship between culture/country and accidents. Besides, drivers from "dangerous" Southern European countries and Iran scored higher on aggressive violations and errors than did drivers from "safe" Northern European countries. However, "speeding" appeared to be a "pan-cultural" problem in traffic. Similarly, aggressive driving seems largely depend on road users' interactions and drivers' interpretation (i.e., cognitive biases) of the behaviour of others in every country involved in the study. Moreover, in all countries, a risky general driving style was mostly related to being young and male. The results of the fifth and sixth studies showed that among young Turkish drivers, gender stereotypes (i.e., masculinity and femininity) greatly influence driver behaviour and performance. Feminine drivers were safety-oriented whereas masculine drivers were skill-oriented and risky drivers. Since everyday driving tasks involve not only erroneous (i.e., risky or dangerous driving) or correct performance (i.e., normal habitual driving), but also "positive" driver behaviours, we developed a reliable scale for measuring "positive" driver behaviours among Turkish drivers in the seventh study. Consequently, I revised Reason's model [Reason, J. T., 1990. Human error. Cambridge University Press: New York] of aberrant driver behaviour to represent a general driving style, including all possible intentional behaviours in traffic while evaluating the differences between countries in traffic safety. The results emphasise the importance of economic, societal and cultural factors, general driving style and skills, which are related to exposure, cognitive biases as well as age, sex, and gender, in differences between countries in traffic safety.

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Last updated 25.09.2006

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