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Cross-cultural differences in driver risk-taking

In: Accident Analysis and Prevention, Vol. 21, No. 4, Aug. 1989, p. 363-369; DOI: 10.1016/0001-4575(89)90027-4

Authors: Michael Sivak, Ulrich Tränkle, J. Soler

This study investigated differences in simulated driver risk-taking behavior among U.S., Spanish, and West German subjects. The task consisted of performing a simulated intersection crossing on a video display. Subjects were shown an intersection with moving traffic on a horizontal road, and they were asked to attempt (under time pressure) a fixed number of crossings with a car moving vertically. The subjects in all three countries included younger, middle-aged, and older persons of both sexes. The following are the main findings: (1) The performance of West German subjects tended to differ from those of U.S. and Spanish subjects. Specifically, West German subjects attempted fewer crossings, had a higher probability of success, and had greater safety margins. (2) Target risk-level of performance, measured by probability of successful crossings, was not affected by age or sex. (3) Probability of attempted crossings was greater for males and younger subjects than for females and older subjects. (4) Similarly, safety margins during attempted crossings were smaller for males and younger subjects than for females and older subjects. These results suggest that there are differences among countries in the target risk-level of performance. However, the present findings imply that within each country all subjects (regardless of age and sex) tended to have the same target risk-level. To attain this risk-level of performance, males and younger subjects (because of their presumed superior psychomotor skills and/or greater experience with video tasks) attempted to cross more gaps (and, consequently, smaller gaps), with resulting smaller safety margins.