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Getting inside the mind behind the wheel

Road traffic accidents among one of the main groups on the road – those who drive for a living – are caused by deliberate risk taking and inattention according to a newly developed system.

This is one of the findings of Gabrielle Jerzembek, of the Department of Psychology and the School of Medicine at Swansea University and Dr Gerhard Manogg of Imagitech Ltd in Swansea.

Accidents are one of the leading causes of death in the UK yet much of the existing research is insufficiently detailed to be generalised to those who drive for a living.

This is changing with this study that combines the expertise of psychologists from Swansea University with the support of software engineers at Imagitech Ltd, who have developed the Roadmarque® system to measure the risk factors in occupational drivers and provide specific awareness training.

A total of 443 occupational drivers from four main groups – delivery drivers, HGV, occasional, and sales representatives – from a variety of organisations, took part in the study. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 17 drivers, transcribed and analysed. The resulting questionnaire was tested with 426 drivers, with the aim of identifying factors that predict accidents and cumulative risk – accidents, points on licence, speeding tickets and other recorded offences.

Findings indicated deliberate risk taking and inattention to be the most important causes of accidents. Sensation seeking and venting emerged to be the most important causes of a variety of self-reported traffic offences and violations.

Mrs Jerzembek, who is currently Research Officer – Qualitative Health Research at Swansea’s School of Medicine, said: “Previous research is limited in its applicability to training within the commercial transport sector in the UK because the samples that have been used were recruited from a student population, very specific groups of drivers or tested in virtual environments. We focused on the main groups of occupational drivers and the differences among them.”

Dr Manogg added: “This study will enable us to build a comprehensive risk profile for each individual driver, together with driving history, knowledge and skill assessments, and inform training to help reduce road risk in occupational drivers. Further studies will address the aspects raised by this initial research as well as analyse data collected through the ongoing use of our driver risk assessment package Roadmarque®”.

Mrs Jerzembek and Dr Manogg presented their research into predicting risk in occupational drivers at the British Psychological Society’s Annual Conference in Dublin on April 4, 2008.

Sabiha Hussain | alfa
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