Thursday, December 3, 2009

What surviving drivers learn from a fatal road accident

AUTHOR: Rajalin S & Summala H
JOURNAL: Accident Analysis and Prevention 1997; 29: 277-283.

ABSTRACT: "The effects of involvement in a fatal accident on surviving drivers' subsequent driving behavior were studied. The quantity (mileage) and quality of driving (offences in driver records) of 245 surviving drivers were compared in three-year periods before and after the accident. A random sample of 253 drivers from the driver register were additionally used as controls. The data showed that about half of the car drivers decreased their driving, with greater reductions being associated with more serious injuries. However, the total number of convictions did not reduce but even showed a tendency to increase in proportion to the amount of driving. The proportion of car drivers with post-crash offences was approximately constant (27-32%) independent of any change in mileage. The data suggest that professional heavy-vehicle drivers incurred fewer convictions during the post-crash period in comparison to car drivers. Thirty-seven surviving drivers were further interviewed on the duration and specificity of the effects. With the exception of three drivers, all said that the fatal accident had affected their driving behavior, but only for a relatively short time. Most commonly, the drivers reported that the effect was limited to those circumstances and situations which led to the accident and did not generalize to safer driving practices. This study suggests that car drivers, if not seriously injured, typically return to their 'normal' driving within a few months, while heavy-vehicle drivers show a tendency towards more cautious behavior after a fatal crash in terms of violations, presumably due to the continuous reinforcement which the latter receive in their work community." [abstract]

SUMMARY/TAKE HOME MESSAGE: About 20% of driving involved in an accident where there was a fatalities permanently reduce or cease their driving behavior. Drivers who believed their own error caused the accident were more severely affected.