The effect of vehicle characteristics on drivers' risk-taking behaviour

Ergonomics. 2002 Feb 10;45(2):85-104. doi: 10.1080/00140130110115345.


There is evidence linking certain vehicle characteristics to crash involvement and one possible mechanism behind this relationship is that these vehicle characteristics influence drivers' risk-taking behaviour. In order to investigate this, we conducted a roadside observation survey and a questionnaire-based study. Both revealed a significant relationship between vehicle performance and drivers' risk-taking behaviour. The causal direction of this relationship has important consequences. If drivers' risk taking predicts their car choice, then it could be justifiably argued that individuals who take more risks when driving simply choose more powerful vehicles to facilitate their behaviour. However, if it is the case that vehicle characteristics adversely influence drivers' risk-taking propensity then this has implications for vehicle design. Results indicated that the causal pathway operates independently in both directions. Finally, we sought to determine which vehicle characteristics influenced risk-taking intentions independently of other confounded characteristics. We found that high vehicle performance and a greater number of safety features led independently to greater intended risk taking in general, while higher internal car noise led to closer car following and more risky gap acceptance, but not to greater speed. Vehicle smoothness and handling did not affect risk-taking intentions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Accidents, Traffic / prevention & control
  • Adult
  • Choice Behavior
  • Equipment Safety
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Motor Vehicles*
  • Risk-Taking*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United Kingdom