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The conceptions of traffic safety among young male drivers

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

  • Is the lack of accidents a sufficient safety criterion in driver training?
  • Can we apply a positive safety criterion?
  • Is traffic socialisation the same as traffic safety?
  • The relation between fathers and their sons as driver trainees
  • Peers in driver training
  • Driver training through driving schools or by individual permit
  • Is 35-hours of training enough for autonomous driving?
  • Previous studies of traffic safety and driver training
  • Driver training by non-professionals--a negleted field of research

The anticipation resources of drivers

  • The maxims as a means of resolving the perplexities of drivers
  • Common sense in traffic--a means of safety or an excuse for mistakes?
  • Chance conceptions as the lack of mental resources of drivers
  • Does the report on chance reveal the skill level and knowledge of the driver?
  • Elk as an instance of the conception of unpredictable incidents in traffic
  • Divergent and convergent thinking as a difference between young male drivers and young female and master drivers
  • Is divergent thinking the cause of male risk-taking?
  • Is convergent thinking the cause of female safe driving?
  • Can we learn convergent thinking?
  • Is it wise to rely on concepts as a means of driver training?
  • Thinking and doing as the distinction between school and permission trainees

Legal topics

  • How to cope with the legal refusals and restrictions in actual traffic situations?
  • The relation between the chance conception and criminal law
  • Can one rely on others obeying the traffic rules?
  • Are there too many traffic rules?
  • The relation between personal maxims and the traffic rules
  • Can adult education and criminal policy liaise?

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All Comments (3)

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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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