Violent events on the road: risk perception of traffic-related and non traffic-related situations

Lilian de Oliveira Vilela da Silva
Marilita Gnecco de Camargo Braga

This study aimed at identifying and comparing subjective risk perception regarding two different violent situations in urban roads: traffic accidents (i.e. crashes) and robberies. A robbery consists of subtracting something from someone, while seriously threatening the victim, or using violence. Robberies can be perpetrated either with or without the use of a weapon.

This study was carried out in the city of Uberlândia, a medium size city in the state of Minas Gerais, south-east Brazil. A total of 383 people was interviewed at home in two boroughs of Uberlândia, using a questionnaire divided in five parts that comprised: a) personal information; b) description of crash involvement; c) description of robbery involvement; d) the chance of being involved in a crash and in a robbery within the next 3 years; e) willingness to pay for more safety in traffic or for more security against robberies; f) what causes more damage or harm to society, crashes or robberies.

Descriptive figures are shown for the sample which reported 1.44 crashes/person. More than half of those involved in crashes (56%) were injured and 75% needed hospital care. There were 1.15 robberies/person. Only 7% of those involved in robberies were injured, none of them hospitalized. During robberies, 57.3% of the respondents were threatened with weapons. Car drivers were more subject to crashes (40% of the sample) and pedestrians were more subject to robberies (78% of the sample). Risk perception of being involved in a robbery within the next 3 years and when on the streets of the local borough is higher than crash risk perception. Respondents thought of dying in 25.5% of the crashes and in 46.3% of the robberies. A large group (63.7% of the sample) declared the willingness to pay for more personal security than for more traffic safety. Statistical analysis is presented in an attempt to study the relationship between variables.

As expected, the respondents´ subjective risk perception appears to contradict objective risk. Instinctively, interviewees might perceive robberies as a greater threat than crashes, perhaps reflecting lightly on the latter. In countries with high crash and violent incident statistics such results could be used to orientate traffic safety policies, education and campaigns, concentrating on the outcomes of crashes.

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