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Public attitudes to road user safety: A review of the literature 2000-2009

Musselwhite, Charles; Avineri, Erel; Fulcher, Eamon; Goodwin, Phil; Susilo, Yusak


Charles Musselwhite

Erel Avineri

Eamon Fulcher

Phil Goodwin

Yusak Susilo


This paper forms the first stage of a research project for the Department for Transport (DfT) that will inform the DfT’s new post-2010 road safety strategy. The paper presents the findings from a critical review of 72 recent research papers, reports and journal articles examining public attitudes to road user safety, concentrating mainly on evidence from the UK dating from the year 2000 onwards.

The critical review exercise found that at the aggregate level there is high support from the public that behaving in a safe manner on the roads is important and that increasing safety through various interventions, including enforcement, engineering and education, is seen as generally acceptable. For example, there is generally a high level of understanding that faster speeds are linked to collisions and high support for drink-driving laws, 20mph zones in residential areas, traffic calming and speed cameras. However, closer inspection of the literature suggests some subtle differences both between and within individuals. Overwhelmingly, there seems to be a consensus that drivers and pedestrians see themselves as safe road users and other users of the road environment as more risky and dangerous. Hence, support for interventions is largely accepted as necessary for “other” road users rather than for themselves.

In addition, the public’s conceptualisation of road user safety shows the social nature of appraising risk and the road user environment and consequently the impact of normative pressure, especially the influence of others, is evident in much of the research. Hence, distorted views on the behaviour of others towards safety and risk influence the public’s own behaviour.

There are differences in road user safety attitudes amongst different segments of the population. Older and female road users have more safety orientated attitudes almost across all road user domains than younger and male road users. In addition, attitudes vary depending upon the context of the research and of the researched. Hence, findings are different when investigating attitudes towards road user safety between a pedestrian and a driver. Implications for interventions are also discussed.


Musselwhite, C., Avineri, E., Fulcher, E., Goodwin, P., & Susilo, Y. (2010, January). Public attitudes to road user safety: A review of the literature 2000-2009. Paper presented at Universities Transport Studies Group Conference

Presentation Conference Type Conference Paper (unpublished)
Conference Name Universities Transport Studies Group Conference
Start Date Jan 1, 2010
End Date Jan 1, 2010
Publication Date Jan 1, 2010
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Keywords public attitudes, road safety
Publisher URL


Musselwhite_et_al_road_user_safety_as_submitted_UTSG.doc (260 Kb)

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