A Psychological Perspective of Drivers’ Speed Preferences in Work Zones and its Implications for Policy and PracticeAuthor/Presenter: Steinbakk, Renata Torquato
All traffic safety work conducted in Norway is based on the goal that nobody should be killed or severely injured in a traffic crash. According to this philosophy, called “Vision Zero”, road authorities will work proactively to improve traffic safety. This viewpoint should also be applicable to work zones. In Norway, in the period 2005–2009, 23 traffic deaths related to work zones were registered. The causes pointed to by the traffic accident analysis performed by the Norwegian Public Roads Administration (NPRA) (2011) demonstrated that several of those traffic crashes involved local conditions and organizational factors, such as lack of warning/safety measures and inadequate interactions between contractors and road authorities. Even though these factors were recognized as being partially accountable for the crashes, the underlying human factors did not receive an in-depth investigation.
In recent years, several field studies have been performed to assess the effects of a varied number of traffic control devices (e.g. traffic signs, road markings, etc.) on driving behaviour in work zones. Nevertheless, only a few studies have addressed the effects of those countermeasures from a behavioural and psychological perspective. For this reason, the main aim of this thesis was to increase the understandings of the role of human factors in roadworks safety, more specifically, the effects of drivers’ personal variables and their interactions with the traffic environment on speed preferences in work zones.
Overall, the present thesis makes significant contributions in understanding speed preferences in work zones. First, it provides evidence that situational factors are of great importance for drivers when choosing at which speed they prefer to drive in a situation. The results provide support for road authorities when it comes to the importance of using countermeasures that emphasize to drivers that the road section is a work zone. Second, the results point to the fact that even though drivers’ personal characteristics are important factors that influence driving behaviour, the environment will facilitate certain personality expressions that manifest in the form of risky behaviours. It is important to keep in mind that situational cues indicating a situation (in this case work zones) that give guidance for the expected behaviour have the possibility to inhibit the expression of certain personality traits in the form of risky behaviour (e.g. higher speeds). Moreover, this thesis also contributes by gathering the existing knowledge from reports and articles about drivers’ behaviours in work zones and discussing it from a psychological perspective. The knowledge produced by this thesis is expected to provide a stronger basis for policy and traffic management practices in work zones and to enhance traffic safety for both drivers and road workers.