SUGGESTIONS FOR THE CREATION OF A DISCIPLINE CONCERNING PREVENTION AND CULTURE OF THE ROAD (Theoretical and Practical)

The following proposals come from the need for a deep and honest analysis of the theories, actions and solutions about road safety issues.

We must be aware that if we go on following the same paradigm and strategy of the last unsuccessful decades we risk getting the same bad results.

Change in rank disease

We need to overcome some dangerous stereotypes and a psychological and economical subjection that came from industrial dictates.

We have to be courageous and realize, for instance, that our approach to the road matter has been, for too long, founded on protection instead of prevention.

We must attribute the right dignity and importance to several disciplines usually left guiltily aside. (”Road safety is a public health issue that intimately involves a range of sectors, including that of health. All have their responsibilities and all need to be fully engaged in injury prevention.” The Fundamentals, WHO 2003 pag. 25)

  • THEORETICAL ASPECT

We need to recognize the human factor as the main element acting in road safety, and promote disciplines as

Philosophy,

the-ethics-of-transport-planning-prof-stephen-potter-talks-at-the-hcdi-seminar-may-29th-2009-5-1024 - Copia Anthropology (“Roadway traffic is a social field distinct from the sedentary environs through which it passes. It has a setting, with boundaries, rules, and rights of access, whose definition and clarity vary from culture to culture.” Vishnu and the Art of Motorcycle Driving: Toward an Anthropology of Traffic. R. Thomas Rosin),

Sociology  (Driving on public streets is an orderly affair structured subjectively by participants trusting each other and objectively by laws and regulations.(Traffic Sociology: Social Patterns of Risk, Peter Rothe,)

and Psychology for the right comprehension of bad driving behaviours and understand how to correct them.

Bad driving behaviours are not only about drugs, alcohol and texting (external implications), but they are also due to a lot of factors regarding the cognitive-behavioural field (internal implications).

HUMAN IMPLICATIONS

Road rage, selective attention, situational perception, locus of control, psychological compensation of the risk, the theory of the herd, imitation and emulation driving, bye-bye syndrome, resistance to change, attributive distortion, sensation seeking, game theory (Homo Ludens), non-technical skills, automatic pilot and other cognitive biases, act together and make driving as dangerous as we can see in daily crashes and murders.

Each one of these elements has deep consequences on behavioural models of driving.

Therefore we must proceed both on the path of technical and non-technical issues.
Human factor deserves not less consideration and attention than road infrastructures and vehicle conditions.

And there is more.

HUMAN SUBJECTS

Urban planning, architecture, statistics, law, communication, education, training, economics, environment, health and other human matters and disciplines give all important and decisive elements that everyone who want to manage road safety and prevention needs to know.
All these knowledge help us to face traffic issues, such as how and how much we use private transport with the aim of a minor and better use  of it.

Getting our cities free from car traffic and making our roads safe, healthy, liveable and shared have to be our main goals.

Now that we have defined that the so many categories of knowledge deserve an equal importance, we can establish the classification of prevention actions.

  • PRACTICAL ASPECT

While on the theoretical science side we put all the disciplines at the same level of dignity, on applied science side we need to sort the solutions in a strict priority order.

The three following aims represent the priority fields of actions.

ROAD CULTURE

It means awareness of all human implications in driving and road sharing, as described above. It means mindfulness about what I’m doing, who and what are around me when I’m driving, it means maturing the ability to perceive and recognize most of the possible markers of risk is in order to prevent troubles and collisions.

All these good practices, together with the theoretical principles, have to be communicated and teach to politicians, decision makers and road professionals. And a proper life-long learning has to be given to common road users.

TRAFFIC CALMING

Mechanical and kinetic sciences, with medical and traumatological ones, tell us how central and decisive is the speed factor

12roadSafety

of the vehicles for the consequences of impact on human body. And for the probability that the crash happens itself.

We must impose a human-compatible urban speed limit, that have to be not higher than 20 mph, generally, except for certain main roads, that anyway doesn’t have to exceed that limit too much.

We can use preferably structural and technological solutions. Firstly we can make it physically impossible to overcome speed limits and secondly we can ensure that every infraction will be properly detected and fined.

The third solution for facing speeding is using human resources such as traffic police.

OFFICER SPEEDING

TRAFFIC REDUCTION

Road congestion has several types of consequences:

  • Directly statistic: the more vehicles and journeys you have on the road, the more collisions you get.
  • On people behaviour: when you are stuck in the traffic and you feel stressed and frustrated so that you develop aggressiveness and violence on driving.
  • On health, for air and acoustic

These are the reasons why this problem has to be considered with the same priority as the previous two.

To solve these issues we need policies to promote public, collective and shared   transport, to encourage pedestrian and cycling modalities and to discourage private vehicles use.

Urban planning and road design can help to achieve that goal too.

Driverless technology, together with shared and on demand service, can be a proper co-solution too.

Now that we have established the priority solutions, we can say that all the remaining actions are complementary and secondary defined.

It means that if we act a complementary intervention without any primary solution we don’t have positive results.

This is the case, for example, of seat belts, helmets, high visibility clothing, road and vehicle conditions, street lighting, forgiving roads, contrast to alcohol, drugs and cell phones use.

Notice: we don’t have to give up on these solutions, we have to observe the right priority, otherwise we would subtract vital resources from immediately resolving actions.

Alfredo Giordani

Rete #Vivinstrada, Fondazione Luigi Guccione Onlus

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