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The conceptions of traffic safety among young male drivers

By: Reima Lehtimaki, Ph.D.

Date: Tuesday, 24. July 2007

This is a summary of a doctoral thesis published in 2001. The original thesis is available online. Reima Lehtimaki works with the traffic safety group, Autor Oy, in Helsinki, Finland.

The conceptions of traffic safety were analysed among young male drivers trained through driving schools or by individual permit. The researcher found that young male drivers trained by individual permit conceive that road traffic always involves potential for damage. Young male drivers trained in driving schools accordingly believe that they can influence safety by using their skills.

Young drivers, however, have lots of deficiencies in their control of driving, which they see as completely chance incidents or unpredictable events. These chance incidents are brief moments of personal chaos. The schooled drivers seemed to analyse traffic incidents conceptually, reporting unpredictable incidents which involved some familiar phenomena--such as elk or deer on the roadway. Despite this analysis, they did not report correct countermeasures very well. The abilities of drivers could be deduced from their reports on chance and unpredictable incidents.

The very brief driving school curriculum introduces concepts which the learner has to assimilate in its intermediate phase without any mentoring or tutoring. The young men also grope for alternatives and test them, which obviously results in experiment and risk-taking in traffic, particularly because the concepts to be assimilated and the legislation both direct the young men to these deplorable actions.

This relates to the general finding that the young men experience a risk-taking phase commencing at the age of 18 - 19 years. By contrast, the thinking of young women and master drivers leads directly to a solution. As the young men pass the risk-taking phase, they will also become firm and steady drivers. Safe methods of assimilating traffic concepts without the risk-taking phase have to be produced for the young men.

The drivers created maxims for themselves which account for traffic incidents and direct their performance. There are too many road rules to be of assistance to drivers in rapidly changing situations. The basic notion of the road rules and maxims is that traffic is always dangerous. Individual road rules do not manifest themselves as such in the maxims but do help to resolve the incident after damage has been done. Learning to drive a car concerns the creation of such maxims.

Traffic safety and driver training are an intrinsic part of a young adult's adaptation to traffic society. This process has to be supported and throughout life. While the elements of driving ability can be dealt with by contemporary official training, the adoption of the safety skills really depends on family and peers as well as trial and error.

This study is based on a comprehensive literature review of traffic safety and driver training. It was an attempt to understand young male drivers. The main method was a conceptional analysis focused on summaries of 34 interviews.

This study contributes to discussion of the following topics:

Traffic safety and driver training

The anticipation resources of drivers

Legal topics

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All Comments (3)

Showing 1 - 3 comments

P lawson,

I'm with Lehtimaki, a 'positive driving culture' is the way forward. good work.


A useful awareness and guidelines to teens and young drivers.A careless driving might lead you to graveyard.Hands up for your work.....


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