A recent study has examined general attitudes to road safety measures among Norwegian road safety experts as well as the Norwegian population.
In the project, researchers at TØI have sought to uncover to what degree road safety work today is characterised by paternalism and expert rule, and how such practices are justified.
The researchers have also examined and compared the attitudes to paternalism and expert rule within field of road safety among road safety experts and a representative sample of the population. In addition, they compared the respondents’ attitudes to road safety with other sectors (leisure and public health).
The study shows that the Norwegian population at large has a positive attitude to a relatively wide range of road safety measures. A Delphi study among 181 people working with road safety showed that this sample was characterized by a high degree of consensus, both when it came to likely future developments and attitudes.
For the expected development, the experts most clearly agreed that in future, it would remain illegal to ride recreational motorcycle without a helmet, that lifejackets would remain compulsory in leisure boating, and that compulsory use of alcohol interlocks in all cars used by professional drivers would be introduced. Of these three measures, only the latter is not already part of existing legislation.
Road safety experts and lay people were in relative agreement when it came to the acceptable annual number of traffic fatalities. In both groups, a majority believed that one cannot accept any traffic fatalities – this was held by a slightly larger share of the population sample than of the expert sample. The relationship between acceptance of traffic deaths and acceptance of restrictive measures was relatively weak, however.
The results from the survey among lay people, indicate that large groups of the population accept significant intervention in traffic for the sake of safety. In particular, it looks as though there is relatively little resistance to the introduction of compulsory safety equipment.
Acceptance of safety measures is higher among women and among older people than among younger men, and there is a tendency for those who place themselves on the political left, to accept larger interventions than those who place themselves on the right. The population consistently accept more paternalism and expert rule in traffic than they do in the sectors of leisure and healthcare.
The report is written in Norwegian, but an English summary can be found here: Heading in the right direction: Is public road safety work paternalism and expert rule? TØI Report 1491/2061 Authors: Beate Elvebakk, Ingeborg Storesund Hesjevoll, Tom-Erik Julsrud