You've probably heard it lots of times: It's the under 24s or the over 70s, besides the motorcyclists and drug users who cause the most traffic accidents. These are high risk groups, who pose a threat to us sensible drivers.
An unfair angling of reality, believes Ove Njå at the University of Stavanger in Norway.
– Some so-called experts maintain for instance that it is 10-15 times more dangerous to drive a motorcycle than to drive a car, or that to drive a motorcycle is as dangerous as to drive with 0,1 percent blood-alcohol concentration. These experts either don't know what risk is, or they under-communicate their own basis for these statements. Not long ago there was a suggestion to limit the possibility for 18 year olds to drive a car, which would hit all the serious 18 year olds. This way of discussing high risk groups is stigmatising large groups of people. It's problematic, and I don't believe it achieves anything. That's why I think it's important to find out more about these high risk groups, says Mr. Njå.
And that's what he has done. Following a request by the Norwegian Public Roads Administration, he has studied reports from all fatal accidents on Norwegian Roads in 2005, 2006 and 2007. In all there are 625 cases. Investigative reports are based on police documents, among them reports from the scene and testimonies from witnesses who describe the turn of events. In all this information, he has tried to find patterns which can tell us something more specific about those who cause accidents.
Mr. Njå is not just concerned with those who become stigmatised. He thinks it is important to find out who really poses the risk, so that measures can be implemented for the those who need it the most.
– We can then approach these groups, to among other things, make them realise they're a high risk group. More knowledge about the high risk groups could also be used to follow up the driver who is caught in police controls or is involved in minor accidents. It might prevent major accidents later, says Mr. Njå.
He thinks traffic should not be considered an isolated problem, but as a part of overall safety in society.
– If you regard accidents as a result of individual errors, you get a whole different perspective than you do when you regard accidents as part of a societal system, as I do. I think councils, the police, the health service, other authorities and representatives for these groups should be pulled in to prevent. He believes that nowadays, we don't think broadly enough.
In the report he sees 17 sub-groups under the known high-risk groups. In many cases, a driver can belong to several groups.
This is the first characterisation of sub-groups:YOUNG MALE DRIVERS
Karen Anne Okstad | alfa
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