What are the factors that contribute to road accidents? An assessment of law enforcement views, ordinary drivers’ opinions, and road accident records


According to police officers, mobile phone use is under-reported in traffic accident records.

Drug and alcohol use may also be under-reported in road accident records.

Some factors contributing to accidents (e.g., inattention, dangerous driving) are not included in reporting procedures.

Police officer’s views about accident causation may influence their memory recall.


What are the main contributing factors to road accidents? Factors such as inexperience, lack of skill, and risk-taking behaviors have been associated with the collisions of young drivers. In contrast, visual, cognitive, and mobility impairment have been associated with the collisions of older drivers. We investigated the main causes of road accidents by drawing on multiple sources: expert views of police officers, lay views of the driving public, and official road accident records. In Studies 1 and 2, police officers and the public were asked about the typical causes of road traffic collisions using hypothetical accident scenarios. In Study 3, we investigated whether the views of police officers and the public about accident causation influence their recall accuracy for factors reported to contribute to hypothetical road accidents. The results show that both expert views of police officers and lay views of the driving public closely approximated the typical factors associated with the collisions of young and older drivers, as determined from official accident records. The results also reveal potential underreporting of factors in existing accident records, identifying possible inadequacies in law enforcement practices for investigating driver distraction, drug and alcohol impairment, and uncorrected or defective eyesight. Our investigation also highlights a need for accident report forms to be continuously reviewed and updated to ensure that contributing factor lists reflect the full range of factors that contribute to road accidents. Finally, the views held by police officers and the public on accident causation influenced their memory recall of factors involved in hypothetical scenarios. These findings indicate that delay in completing accident report forms should be minimised, possibly by use of mobile reporting devices at the accident scene.


Road safety

Young drivers

Older drivers

Accident causation

Contributing factors


View Abstract

© 2018 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd.


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