Errors and violations on the roads: a real distinction?

Ergonomics. 1990 Oct-Nov;33(10-11):1315-32. doi: 10.1080/00140139008925335.


In considering the human contribution to accidents, it seems necessary to make a distinction between errors and violations; two forms of aberration which may have different psychological origins and demand different modes of remediation. The present study investigated whether this distinction was justified for self-reported driver behaviour. Five hundred and twenty drivers completed a driver behaviour questionnaire (DBQ) which asked them to judge the frequency with which they committed various types of errors and violations when driving. Three fairly robust factors were identified: violations, dangerous errors, and relatively harmless lapses, respectively. Violations declined with age, errors did not. Men of all ages reported more violations than women. Women, however, were significantly more prone to harmless lapses (or more honest) than men. These findings were consistent with the view that errors and violations are indeed mediated by different psychological mechanisms. Violations require explanation in terms of social and motivational factors, whereas errors (slips, lapses, and mistakes) may be accounted for by reference to the information-processing characteristics of the individual.

MeSH terms

  • Accidents, Traffic / psychology
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Automobile Driving / psychology*
  • Dangerous Behavior*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Risk-Taking*
  • Sex Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult