Research & reports

Title: Prolific illegal driving behaviour: a qualitative study

Organisation: Transport Scotland
Date uploaded: 22nd April 2015
Date published/launched: May 2013

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The aim of the research was to provide insights into the attitudes and behaviours of a number of drivers who regularly engage in multiple non-compliant and illegal driving behaviours on Scotland’s roads. These qualitative insights sought to complement existing quantitative data around drivers’ attitudes and behaviours collected by Transport Scotland on an on-going basis.

The findings are based upon qualitative, in-depth interviews with 15 self-confessed multiple, illegal drivers recruited using a free-find or opportunistic approach. The participants were of mixed gender, age (ranging from 18 to 62 years), driving experience and employment status. The sample was drawn from both urban and rural locations.

The research seeks to inform future policy development and social marketing campaigns around road safety in Scotland.

The work shows that, rather than there being a ‘hard core’, the number of drivers’ to whom the ‘prolific illegal driver’ label may be applied is perhaps much broader. It spans all ages and both genders, albeit the combinations and reasons for different types of illegal driving vary among different segments of the population.

The views expressed suggest that social, cultural and peer factors all influence illegal driving, and people’s perceptions of social norms appear to explain prolific illegal driving behaviour more than any individual driver characteristics. This suggests that holistic, population based approaches to changing behaviours may be needed rather than those directed at the individual.

Even among regular risky and illegal drivers, there is a lack of acknowledgement that driving as they do is really illegal, that they are ‘real’ criminals or that their ‘crimes’ have real social impacts. This has important implications both for how policies are tailored and marketing campaigns are directed, since the first step to reaching many of these drivers is to make them aware that the policies and campaigns are targeted at them, and not others.

The general complacency among those interviewed that they were ‘in control’ and that risky driving was more characteristic of other drivers suggests that there is a translation gap between what the law prescribes as illegal and risky and what people perceive to be acceptable for themselves. Given that previous penalties seem to have been relatively ineffectual in changing drivers’ behaviour, and the low prevalence of previous accident involvement is seen as reinforcing the sense that these driving practices are safe, more perhaps needs to be done to challenge people’s estimations and expectations that future risks may occur.

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