SWOV Catalogus


The effect of severity and type of traffic penalties on car drivers’ emotions, perceptions of fairness, and behavioural intentions.
20200599 ST [electronic version only]
Goldenbeld, C. Mesken, J. & Schagen, I.N.L.G. van
Leidschendam, Stichting Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek Verkeersveiligheid SWOV, 2013, 27 p., ref.; D-2013-12

Samenvatting The present study explores the emotional, cognitive and behavioural responses of car drivers to various traffic penalty scenarios. A representative sample of 1237 car drivers was asked to report their probable emotions, perceived fairness and behavioural intentions in reaction to various traffic penalty scenarios. Respondents were asked to imagine being stopped for speeding, red light negation or handheld phone use, and receiving relatively high or low traffic fines, or receiving other sanctions than just fines. The analysis supported theoretical predictions that car drivers consider higher fines as less fair and that these evoke stronger emotions of anger, shame and tension. This was the case for all three violations studied: speeding, red light negation, and handheld phone use while driving. In accordance with theoretical predictions, the study found that the stronger the emotion, the higher the perceived general fairness of the sanction system and the higher the perceived specific penalty fairness, the stronger the intention to drive more carefully. For each of the three different violations, penalty severity and sanction type affected emotions and perceived fairness in the theorized direction. Contrary to theoretical expectation, no effect was found on behavioural intention, although both emotions and fairness were found to predict behavioural intention. Thus, the study confirmed previous research by showing the importance of perceived fairness in regulating intentions to improve behaviour upon rule violations. Of the three sanction types, a recorded warning resulted in weaker emotions and more perceived penalty fairness, but it did not influence behavioural intention. This leads to the question how the relationship between these variables should be understood, and, more specifically, why emotions and fairness were influenced while behavioural intention remained constant. The discussion offers further theoretical explanations.
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