Psychosocial predictors in the transgression of traffic regulations

The results of a study[1] aiming to determine the influence of variables arising due to deterrents, social influence and legitimacy concerning the transgression of four of the traffic regulations which most concern authorities in this area have recently been published:

  • The use of the seatbeltestudi_transit
  • Handling mobile telephones while driving
  • Speeding
  • Drinking and driving

To meet this objective, a survey of 1,500 drivers was carried out. The results revealed that:

  • Social influence is a determining factor for abiding by traffic regulation.
  • The variables of legitimacy are a major asset when predicting the probability of transgression.
  • None of the factors related to the deterrent model show any signs of influencing such behaviour.

Over recent years, with the progressive improvements in roads and safety, scientific research has stressed that at the moment the main cause of road accidents is the human factor, which includes, along with other behavioural patterns, transgression of driving regulations.

According to the authors of the study, with the public policies being designed and applied, the key to deterring would appear to involve increasing formal forms of punishment, and ruling out other elements which may be more efficient, such as regulations and informal social sanctions or the driver’s own order of values.

The results of the study stress the need for a review of the approach which underlies current public policies concerning the prevention of dangerous behaviour while driving.

They feel that the drivers’ attitude to each of the driving regulations researched displays differences which encourage the diversification of strategies of formal social control to foment responsible behaviour while driving, which would in turn lead to better preventive efficiency.

The probability of abiding by the regulations will basically depend on two factors, which are, on the one hand, the behaviour adopted by the reference group and, on the other, that formal obligations are considered morally acceptable.

They therefore conclude that formal imposed regulations and the response of the legal authorities ought to correspond to the system of values shared by members of society.

[1] A study elaborated by Rebeca Bautista Ortuño and Esther Sitges Macià of the Universitat Miguel Hernández Elche. Financed by the Spanish Directorate General of Traffic.Revista Española de Investigación Criminológica. Article 5, Edition 14 (2016). ISSN: 1696-9219.


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