Perceived risk and modal choice: risk compensation in transportation systems

Accid Anal Prev. 1995 Aug;27(4):503-21. doi: 10.1016/0001-4575(94)00087-3.


A transportation mode choice analysis is performed that examines behavioral responses to perceived risk in the choice of mode for daily commute trips. This methodology provides a technique for examining, by means of disaggregate individual level data, risk-compensating effects in transportation systems. Various measures of perceived risk are examined for explaining modal choice. Other studies have described how safety regulations have resulted in increases in "driving intensity." This study defines one component of driving intensity to be the increased probability of commuting by automobile. The results show that modal shifts occur when risk perceptions for a given mode are reduced. To demonstrate potential risk-compensating effects within the transportation system, an estimate of changes in accident fatalities due to commuting is derived using rough estimates of fatalities per person-mile travelled. It is shown that a given change in the perceived risk of commuting by automobile results in a less than proportionate change in net commuting fatalities. The relative magnitude is dependent on how objective reductions in risk translate into perceived reductions in risk. This study also shows that perceived safety improvements in bicycle transportation have an aggregate elasticity value that is greater than one. This means that bicycle safety improvements attract proportionately more people to bicycle commuting (i.e. a 10% increase in safety results in a greater than 10% increase in the share of people bicycle commuting).

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Accidents, Traffic / mortality
  • Accidents, Traffic / psychology*
  • Accidents, Traffic / statistics & numerical data
  • Attitude to Health
  • Choice Behavior*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Probability
  • Psychological Theory
  • Risk-Taking*
  • Safety
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Transportation / methods*