The cultural approach to traffic safety is a new research perspective which has emerged recently, especially in the US. The TraSaCu project brings together expertise in engineering (vehicle safety, road building, traffic system planning) as well as in the sciences of human action (psychology, sociology, anthropology) in order to develop a comprehensive framework of traffic safety culture that is useful for practical work in road safety as well as for academic research. This project has received funding from the European Union Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No 645690.
Traffic Safety Cultures and the Safe Systems Approach – Towards a Cultural Change Resarch and Innovation Agenda for Road Safety
Traffic Safety Culture (TraSaCu) aims at developing a cultural approach in road traffic safety research and accident prevention. TraSaCu takes up the concept of safety culture which is well established in organisational safety research and applies it to the open realm of road traffic and road safety.
Traditional approaches to traffic safety emphasise technical factors (e.g. improvement of infrastructure), human factors (driving behaviour) and sociotechnical factors (safety technology); these approaches shall be complemented by a cultural perspective which has emerged recently in safety research and prevention, especially in the USA. Safety culture has been identified as an important factor of road safety as it helps understanding and explaining the typical patterns of risk perception and risk taking that prevail in different national, regional or local traffic systems as well as their relationships with numbers and forms of accidents. A weak safety culture produces higher numbers of accidents which are more severe. A strong safety culture helps reducing the number of accidents as well as mitigating their severity. It strengthens safety relevant attitudes and behaviour and it is also a condition for making road safety measures more effective. Taking culture into account, then, is an important element for a safer system approach in road safety.
What is Traffic Safety Culture?
According to a working definition of the US Department of Transportation Safety Council (US DOT), traffic safety culture is defined as
“The shared values, actions, and behaviours that demonstrate a commitment to safety over competing goals and demands”.
A unified concept of safety culture, however, still does not exist. The project will, therefore, elaborate an empirically grounded and theoretically adequate concept of traffic safety culture, based on this definition by conducting a number of case studies of different traffic safety cultures across Europe. It focuses on the safety cultures that emerge under different institutional, demographic and topographical conditions and investigates their influence on the numbers and forms of accidents.
The research strategy is two-fold. For one, it focuses on the culturally mediated interaction between traffic participants and their environment in terms of the cultural patterns of risk taking and risk perception. But it also looks at those cultural elements that can be changed easily in order to improve road safety of the investigated traffic systems. Researchers will systematically collect data and share experiences about selected traffic safety cultures across Europe (and the US) that are analysed by state-of-the-art statistical and interpretive methods; data and results are shared among participants and will be made available for a wider public by constructing a knowledge database. Data collection will rely on secondary data as far as possible. Survey data, official statistics and in-depth interviews will be included as well as observational data, especially data that are produced in naturalistic driving studies (observation of driving behaviour by using in-car cameras and sensors). Naturalistic driving data have not been used in the context of cultural analysis before and they are highly relevant in order to understand driving styles and patterns of risk-taking.
The project brings together expertise in engineering (vehicle safety, road building, traffic system planning) as well as in the sciences of human action (psychology, sociology, anthropology) in order to develop a comprehensive framework of traffic safety culture that is useful for practical work in road safety as well as for academic research. Conceptual work and empirical research are the foundations of developing action plans and intervention strategies in order to transform and to improve safety cultures at different levels.
-Kuratorium für Verkehrssicherheit (KFV), Wien, Austria
-Road Safety Institute (RSI) “Panos Mylonas”, Athen, Griechenland
-Tallinna Tehnikaulikool (Tallinn University of Technology), Tallinn, Estland
-Co-PLAN, Institute for Habitat Development, Tirana, Albanien
-Middle East Technical University (METU), Ankara, Türkei
-Traffic Research Center of Finland Ltd., Helsinki, Finnland
-Universiteti Polis Shpk (Polis University), Tirana, Albanien
-AMRKS, Pristina, Kosovo
-Stichting Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek Verkeersveiligheid (SWOV), Den Haag, Niederlande
-TCN Shpk, Tirana, Albanien
-Technische Universität Wien, Wien, Österreich
-Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, USA
-Montana State University Bozeman (MSU), Bozeman, USA