A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46



4 5 6 7 8 9

The Attitude to Road Accidents

Two questions were put to the whole sample to establish the general attitude to the problem of road accidents. Informants were first asked “What do you think about the problem of road accidents, would you say the problem was serious or not serious?” Next, all informants saying that they thought the problem was serious were asked to define further their attitude as “very serious” or “fairly serious”. The answers to both these questions taken as a whole enable an attitude scale to be framed. The distribution of answers in this scale is given in Table 1.

Table 1.

Attitude towards Road Accidents

Whole Sample
No. %
Very Serious 1069 56
Fairly Serious 549 29
Not Serious 149 8
Don’t know 125 7
No answer 10 -
SAMPLE 1902 100
AGE: Under 34 35-54 55 & over Total Male Under 34 35-54 55 & over Total Female
% % % % % % % %
Very Serious 51 64 57 58 52 56 57 55
Fairly Serious 32 26 28 28 33 29 25 30
Not Serious 9 7 9 8 6 8 10 7
Don’t Know 8 2 6 5 9 7 7 8
No Answer - 1 - 1 - - 1 -
SAMPLE 202 390 220 813 * 471 399 219 1089

* (1 Not classified by Age)

It will be seen that there is little difference between the attitudes of men and women in the younger and older age groups. More men than women in the middle-aged group thought the problem ‘very serious’.

Table 2.

Attitude towards Road Accidents

Summary Scotland North & North East England North West North Midland & East Midland & Wales South, South West & South East London
% % % % % % % %
Very Serious 56 66 65 59 54 51 49 51
Fairly Serious 29 23 23 33 24 28 38 33
Not Serious 8 10 3 4 19 9 5 6
Don’t know 7 1 7 4 2 12 8 10
No Answer - - 2 - 1 - - -
SAMPLE 1902 217 287 268 253 299 327 251

There appears to be a trend from North to South in the proportion saying that the problem appears to them “very serious”. Larger proportions in the Northern than in the Southern parts of the country said “very serious”.

It will be further noted that in the North Midland and East regions a notable proportion of the sample considered the problem “not serious”, whilst in the Midland and Wales region a rather higher proportion gave no definite answer to the questions and may presumably be regarded as people who are not seriously perturbed by the problem.

It is to be noted that if “very serious” and “fairly serious” are taken together there is no such marked trend. This may be due to a difference in outlook between the Northerner and the Southerner - the former classing as “very serious” a degree of seriousness that might be regarded by the latter as only “fairly serious”.

Table 3.

Attitude towards Road Accidents

Up to £3 Over £3 - £4 Over £4 - £5. 10. Over £5. 10.
% % % %
Very Serious 52 47 59 63
Fairly Serious 33 33 26 25
Not Serious 7 10 8 7
Don’t Know 7 10 6 4
No Answer 1 - 1 1
SAMPLE 355 376 711 415
(45 Not classified by Economic Status)

Economic status is here defined by the wage rate of the chief wage earner in the family of the informant.

It will be seen that there is some difference between the proportion regarding the problem as “very serious” in the higher and lower income groupings.

It is clear from these figures that whilst a majority of the population sampled thinks that road accidents present a “very serious” problem, a substantial proportion of the population are less perturbed. Clearly in view of statements made about the numbers of casualties from road accidents it was hardly to be expected that many people would say the problem was “not serious”, but it will be noted nevertheless that 15% of the sample either say this or give no definite answer to the question.

Further, 29% of the sample after consideration only graded the problem as “fairly serious”.

To establish the public attitude to the problem is, however, only to touch the fringe of awareness. Clearly there may be sharp differences between a publicly expressed opinion on a problem of this sort and what people themselves do in situations in which road accidents may occur.

The remainder of this section, therefore, is devoted to examining the results of a series of checks devised to test the extent to which the public attitude already noted reflects the usual, day to day, state of mind of informants.

The Attitude of Special Groups

One special group of people suitable for such a check are informants with children. It might perhaps be expected that such a group would take a more serious view of the road accident situation than others.

Table 4.

Attitude towards Road Accidents

Informants with or without children under 20
With Children No Children Summary
% % %
Very Serious 60 54 56
Fairly Serious 28 29 29
Not Serious 6 9 8
Don’t Know 5 8 7
No Answer 1 - -
SAMPLE * 761 1141 1902

* There were 761 parents of children under 20 and 616 parents of children under 15.

The difference in the proportion saying “very serious” is definite though not very large. Further light is thrown on this by the answers of informants with children aged under 15 who were asked if they had heard about Kerb Drill.

Table 5.

“Have you heard about Kerb Drill”

Summary Men Women
% % %
Yes 51 49 52
No 44 46 42
Don’t Know 3 3 3
No answer 2 2 3
SAMPLE: Those with children under 15 * 616 269 347

* There were 761 parents of children under 20 and 616 parents of children under 15.

Only half of all informants with children under 15 had heard about Kerb Drill. This proportion is a little less than the proportion of those with children under 20 saying that they thought road accidents presented a “very serious” problem. In view of the fact that in some districts there has not been an extensive propagation of the idea of Kerb Drill, Table 5 may be regarded to some extent as showing that about the same proportion thought the problem was “serious” as had noted the existence of activity designed to protect children against road accidents. A detailed analysis of the descriptions of Kerb Drill given by those who said that they had heard of it, showed that the overwhelming majority of them were in fact able to describe Kerb Drill accurately.

All informants were asked to state what they thought “children did which was especially dangerous” with regard to road accidents, and, following on this, parents of children under 15 were asked “are you doing anything particular with your children to guard against this”. The answers to this question are given below.

Table 6.

“Are you doing anything particular with your child to guard against children's dangerous actions?”

Don’t let them play in the streets, keep on the pavement. 13
Look both ways before crossing. 33
Ask adults to take them across- to be accompanied by adults when on the roadway. 8
Teach them how to cross-to use crossings To understand traffic lights, signs, signals, know the rules of the road. 18
Vague - Yes - tell them to be careful. 14
No. 3
Miscellaneous. 15
Don’t know. Can’t say. 4
No answer. -
All with children under 15 in the Sample. 616
(Some informants gave more than one answer).

It will be seen that only the second and fourth comments indicate that practical action is being taken along the lines suggested in “Kerb Drill”. These comments come from only about 50% of those with children under 15, a proportion which agrees with previous results. One further check is available from an analysis of answers given by informants in different economic groups with children under 15, who had heard of Kerb Drill.

It will be remembered (See Table 3) that informants in the upper income groups were more seriously impressed by the dangers of road accidents than those in the lower income groups. Analyses of answers to the Kerb Drill question showed that a higher proportion of informants with children under 15 in the upper income group knew of Kerb Drill than of informants with children under 15 in the lower income groups.

It may therefore be assumed that the attitude question is giving a fairly clear reflection of the state of mind of those with children under 15, a substantial section of the population.

Since the proportions on the attitude scale accurately reflect the state of mind of parents with and without children, it follows that amongst a large proportion of such informants there is little active consciousness of the dangers of road accidents.

Informants who went out to work were asked how they get to work, and answers to the attitude question were analysed by method of getting to work. Results are given for three groups, those who walked, those who cycled and those who used buses and trams. (Not enough travelled in other ways for separate results to be given.)

Table 7.

Attitude towards Road Accidents

Method of getting to work.
Summary Walk Bus or Tram Pedal Cycle
% % % %
Very Serious 57 53 62 55
Fairly Serious 29 30 25 33
Not Serious 8 10 6 8
Don’t Know 6 7 6 4
No Answer - - 1 -
Those who walk, cycle or go to work by bus or tram in the Sample. 1038 404 379 255

There are no large differences in the attitudes of different groups of road users. It was perhaps to be expected that those using buses or trams would be more aware of road accident dangers.

Later on in this report an attempt is made to assess public awareness of particular road dangers. A summary, however, of the results of this later section is of use in checking the value of the attitude scale. Informants were asked to select danger situations from three diagrams showing road situations. A total of 15 obvious danger situations was included in these three diagrams and informants have been grouped according to the number of these danger situations they were able to point out. The following table shows the relationship between the position in the attitude scale of informants and the number of danger situations correctly indicated by them.

Table 8.

Attitude to road accidents

Number of danger situations correctly indicated in diagrams
Number of Situations indicated
Attitude towards accidents 0 - 5 6 - 10 11 - 15
% % %
Very Serious 48 58 61
Serious 29 28 32
Not Serious 11 7 5
Don’t Know 11 7 2
No Answer 1 - -
SAMPLE 414 1016 472

It will be seen that there is a noticeable difference between the proportions saying “very serious” in the groups giving five or fewer correct answers, and the groups giving 6 or more correct answers. Furthermore there is a marked difference between the proportions saying “not serious” and “Don’t know”, taken together, in the group giving 5 or fewer correct answers and the group giving 11 or more correct answers. This once again seems to indicate that the attitude scale gives a correct reflection of the state of mind on the problem of road accidents.

Observations of Road Behaviour

Three observational situations were selected and counts made of different types of behavior in the three situations. In each case observations were made at five different times during the day; 8 - 10 a.m., 11 - 1 p.m., 2 - 3 p.m., 2 - 3 p.m., 5 - 6 p.m. 7 - 10 p.m. They therefore covered the periods of going to and returning from work, intermediate periods, and one period in the evening.

Table 9.

Situation 1. Using the pedestrian crossing

Age - Under 20 20 - 50 Over 50 Total Under 20 20 - 50 Over 50 Total
% % % % % % % %
Used 47 46 48 46 43 42 44 43
Did not use 53 54 52 54 57 58 56 57
SAMPLE 563 1827 653 3043 682 2366 757 3805

In this situation the investigators were stationed at selected pedestrian crossings in all the towns covered by the sample. One investigator stood at each side of the road and attention was concentrated on a strip of the road covering some ten yards on either side of the pedestrian crossing. For all persons entering within that area, a record was made of whether the pedestrians made any attempt to walk between the crossing marks or not. It will be seen that the overall figures indicated that over half the population did not make use of the crossing. There is further very little difference between the proportions using the crossing in the different sex and age groups.

The table below indicates an interesting change in behaviour at different times of day.

Table 10.

Situation 1. Using the Pedestrian Crossings at different times during the day

8 - 10 a.m. 11 a.m. - 1 p.m. 2 - 3 p.m. 5 - 6 p.m. 7 - 10 p.m.
% % % % %
Males 55 50 47 41 36
Females 49 44 44 40 31

It will be seen that the proportion using the crossings is much higher early in the day than it is in the late afternoon, and evening. It will be seen by reference to Appendix 2. that this difference in behaviour over time cannot be explained by changes in the sex or age ratio in the samples observed at different times of the day.

Table 11.

Situation 2. Looking before crossing at corners

Under 20 20 - 50 Over 50 Total Under 20 20 - 50 Over 50 Total
% % % % % % % %
Looked 41 52 49 49 47 51 56 51
Did not look 59 58 51 51 53 49 44 49
SAMPLE 744 1897 588 3229 812 1955 616 3383

To observe this situation investigators were stationed at road comers and recorded whether those crossing the roads stopped and looked for traffic approaching at the corner. Here once again there are no sharp variations between the sexes, although men in the middle age group appear to be rather more cautious than the younger men, and the older women more cautious than the younger women.

There were no sharp differences in behaviour at different times of day observed in this situation.

Table 12.

Situation 3 Stopping to look before crossing in front of an obstruction

Under 20 20 - 50 Over 50 Total Under 20 20 - 50 Over 50 Total
% % % % % % % %
Stopped 52 53 48 51 58 53 55 55
Did not stop 48 47 52 49 42 47 45 45
SAMPLE 281 730 288 1299 261 737 239 1237

To observe this situation investigators selected strips of the road in which stationary vehicles obscured the view of pedestrians crossing and records were made of the numbers of people who took care on reaching such obstructions to see whether there was any danger from obscured on-coming traffic. There are once again no sharp differences between the sex and age groups. An analysis over time, however, showed that both men and women were much more cautious during the period 8 - 10 a.m. than at any other time during the day. Reference once again to the appendix on sample 2. indicates that this difference cannot be explained by differences in the sex and age ratio of the particular samples observed at different times of the day.

This series of observations indicates quite clearly that in at least these situations, which accident statistics show are more dangerous than others, elementary precautions are not being taken by a very large section of the population studied.

It will be seen that about half the population in each case is not taking due precaution. This figure is fairly close to the proportion whose expressed attitude to the problem of road accidents is other than “very serious”. These observations may therefore be regarded as agreeing broadly with the results given by the attitude scale at the beginning of this section.

It is necessary to use those results with caution over a period of time, until the sample involved could be standardised. There is however, little reason why this could not be done, and such observations would give a direct check on the way in which road behaviour is being affected by any educational campaign. There is further, no reason why, in future, questions about road accidents should not be put to people whose road behaviour has been observed and an analysis made, on this basis, of the relationship between what might be called “accident consciousness” and road behaviour.

11 12

Danger Situations noticed on road diagrams

All informants were handed three diagrams showing road situations. These diagrams are given in Appendix 3. It will be seen that they try to show simply the chief dangers in road situations indicated by the accident statistics. The device was not completely successful since some sections of the population, the older age groups, experienced difficulty in interpreting the diagrams even though they represented familiar situations. It may very well be, therefore, that this is a test which is unsuitable for such sections of the population. It seems fairly clear however, from the field workers’ reports that in future, such diagrams can be used if the situations are even more simplified than in the present case, and if the number of danger situations represented in each picture is limited to one or two. It might also be an improvement to use photographs of danger situations rather than diagrams. With all these reservations however, it appears from the results that the experiment was of some use as a check on the publicly expressed attitude.

For the reason just given the diagrams were not found of use in checking group attitudes because the different sexes and age groups reacted differently when presented with them. Detailed analysis of the results showed that the variation in response to the diagrams measured much more the different ability of the sexes and age groups to deal with information presented in this way than differences in attitude towards the problem of road accidents.

The results cannot therefore be used to test group differences in attitude. They can however, be used to test the reactions of the sample as a whole to different stimuli. Here the proportions in the different sex and age groups are of course the same each time the sample as a whole is confronted with different diagrams. It is for this purpose that the results of the diagrams were used in Table 8 above. Further, the results for different diagrams may be compared and the differences found attributed to differences in attitude to or consciousness of the situations presented.

It will be seen from Table 15 that there are four danger situations in the first diagram, six in the second and five in the third. 22% of the sample were able to indicate 5 or fewer of the total of 15 danger points, 53% were able to indicate 6 - 10 and 25% were able to indicate 11 or more danger points in these three diagrams. (See Table 8).

The results can in the first place be used as a rough check on the validity of the attitude scale.

Table 13.

Accident Situations Indicated in Diagrams

Number of situations indicated.
Diagram A 0. 1. 2. 3. 4.
Sample 1902 % 11 7 32 16 34
Diagram B 0. 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6.
Sample 1902 % 9 9 19 25 21 10 7
Diagram C 0. 1. 2. 3. 4. 5.
Sample 1902 % 10 12 30 29 12 7

It will be seen that 50% of the sample correctly indicated at least three danger situations in diagram A, 63% in Diagram B. and 48% in Diagram C. It is to be noted that these percentages are not strictly comparable as the number of situations is not the same in each of the three diagrams. If ability to pick out danger situations in such diagrams be accepted as an index to awareness of real dangers then these results show that about half the sample or, perhaps a little more than that, are on the whole aware of such dangers. The deficiencies in the method have been pointed out and at the present stage of development this device is a crude index only. With these points in mind it will be noticed that the results just quoted agree broadly with Table I in which 56% of the sample were shown to regard the problem of road accidents as “very serious”.


The results of this section so far may be summarised as follows. The majority of a representative sample of the adult population, 56%, considered the problem of road accidents as “very serious”. 29% considered the problem only as “fairly serious” and 15% either thought the problem was “not serious” or were unable to express a definite opinion. There was little difference in attitude between the sex and age groups.

There are larger proportions in the North and Scotland than in the South and London which consider the problem “very serious” and in the North Midlands and East regions notable proportions of the samples considered the problem “not serious”.

Internal checks, observations of road behaviour and experimental tests of ability to perceive danger situations were made to check the results of attitude questions. It appears from all sources that about half the adult population, or a little more, is taking the problem of road accidents “very seriously” and that considerable sections are much less perturbed or alert to the possible dangers. Point is given to this conclusion by answers given by informants to the question “What do you think should be done about the problem of road accidents”.

Table 14.

“What do you think should be done about the problem of road accidents?”

School Training 15
Better roads, improved roads, wider crossings, more signs, traffic lights, signals, cycle tracks. 24
Heavier punishment for breaking rules, stricter driving tests, reduced speed limit. 15
Publicity (Films, posters, newspapers radio lectures, etc.) 10
Better crossings outside schools. 3
Keep children off streets, Provide more recreation grounds. 1
Check up more on condition of vehicles. 1
Miscellaneous. 12
Don’t Know. 16
No Answer. 3
Vague answers, people should be more careful. 7

Some Informants gave more than one answer.

It will be soon that 26% of the sample were unable to answer or gave vague answers only to the question. About 27% of the sample thought that some improvement in roads or crossings was necessary and this was the type of comment made most often.

13 14 15 16 17 18 19

Awareness of Special Dangers

So far the main emphasis has been on establishing the general attitude towards road dangers. In this section an attempt is made to find out how alert people are to special dangers. It will be useful in this connection to bear in mind the results of the observations of road behaviour (Tables 9, 11, 12), but in addition answers to special questions are available, and of course the general results of the reactions to the diagrams.

The situations in the diagrams are based on statistics showing the road situations in which accidents occurred most frequently. In the table below are given the proportions of the whole sample indicating correctly the accident situations shown in the diagrams.

Table 15.

Proportions of sample correctly indicating danger situations

A. School Picture %
1. Use crossing where cars are parked. 80
2. Do not cross until sure no moving vehicles are approaching from behind stationary cars. 49
3. Use crossing at top of road - don’t cross opposite school. 77
4. Watch out for cars coming around corner. 51
No situations correctly indicated. 11
B. Crossing Picture
1. Children should not be playing on pavement with traffic going along road. 49
2. Pedestrian at bottom right is not on crossing. 60
3. Pedestrian at bottom right should look out for moving cars masked by stationary ones. 36
4. Pedestrian at bottom left should not move off pavement until no cars are rounding corner. 37
5. Pedestrian at top right is walking in the road. 53
6. Cyclist at top left is not in full control of cycle. 64
No situations correctly indicated. 9
C. Bend in Road Picture
1. Pedestrian top left should be on crossing. 51
2. Pedestrian top left should not step off pavement until cycle has passed. 51
3. Cars are overtaking on bend. 43
4. Pedestrian bottom right pointing away from oncoming traffic and not giving it full attention. 62
5. Pedestrians bottom right should be on crossing. 35
No situations correctly indicated. 10

About the same proportion of the sample failed in each case to indicate any danger situation correctly.

50% of the sample correctly indicated 3 or more danger situations in diagram A. Points 1 and 3 were indicated by the largest proportions. In both cases it is the use of the crossing which is involved and considerably smaller proportions noticed the other two points. 63% of the sample correctly indicated 3 or more danger situations in diagram B. Points 3 and 4 were indicated by the smallest proportions. It will be noticed that they are the same situations as 2 and 4 in diagram A. where they were also indicated by smaller proportions than indicated the other points. Once again a fairly high proportion mentioned point 2 on diagram B. This refers to the use of crossings which was picked out in diagram A. by large proportions.

48% of the sample correctly indicated 3 or more danger situations in Diagram C. The highest proportion mention point 4 but point 5 which is concerned with the use of the crossing is mentioned by fewer. However, the same figures on the diagram are involved in points 4 and 5 and informants might not have looked for two errors committed by the same person. Point 1 in diagram C also deals with the use of a crossing and a considerably higher proportion indicated this than did so for point 5.

The total impression gained from these results is of rather more alertness about the use of crossings than of the need to pay special attention when crossing at corners or when stationary vehicles obscure oncoming traffic. (Points 1 and 3 on A, point 2 on B and points 1 and 5 on C. average 60% against an average of 43% for point 2 on A. and point 3 on B). It is interesting that no such difference in behaviour was observed in these situations (Table 9, 11 and 12). This suggests that there may be greater public acknowledgment of the need to use crossings than there is actual use of crossings. From which it perhaps follows that exhortations to use crossings may be less efficacious than practical steps to ensure their use.

It will be noticed that only half of the sample indicated point 1 on diagram B,: the dangers of children playing along the pavement of a busy road. This broadly corroborates Tables 4, 5 and 6 where it is shown that about half of the sample was alert to the need for special care of children.

Just over half of the sample indicated point 5 on B and point 2 on C: special dangers of “jay walking” or pedestrians walking in road careless of traffic.

All informants were asked “what actions by the following groups of people would you say are likely to result in accidents”. The groups mentioned were the main road users and opinions recorded have in the following tables been placed alongside the 1937 Ministry of Transport report statistics on the causes of accidents.

Whilst the two columns are not directly comparable they do indicate the relative weights of various causes of accidents (a) in public opinion and, (b), as shown by the accident statistics. This comparison therefore gives a direct check on the extent to which members of the public know the causes of accidents and the faults of particular groups of road users.

Of the 1902 people interviewed 219, 11.5% did not mention any actions on the part of pedestrians which might lead to accidents; of these 8% said they thought pedestrians were very careful on the whole. (See p.) The remaining 1682 informants gave between them 1940 answers describing actions which might be dangerous.

Table 16.

“What actions by pedestrians would you say are likely to result in accidents?”

Actions thought to be dangerous % Actions mentioned % Accidents caused by pedestrians as shown in Statistics
(a) (b)
Heedless of traffic – crossing carriageway 36.9 52.7 39.3
Heedless of traffic - not crossing carriage way, walking or running into carriage way, not crossing 26.1 16.8 12.4
Walking or running out from in front of or behind vehicle or object which masked movement 11.3 18.4 13.5
Misjudging distance of approaching vehicle 8.8 .5 0.4
Not using crossing 5.2 - -
Boarding vehicle without due care 4.0 4.6 3.3
Slipping or falling 2.1 1.5
Others 7.7 4.9 3.6
Children under 7 years unaccompanied or inadequately supervised - - 23.9
Children playing in carriage way - - 2.1
SAMPLE: No. of actions mentioned 1940 (a) excluding children
(b) including children

It will be noticed that children are not mentioned at all as special offenders, by the general public, whereas the Report on Road Accidents attributes nearly a quarter of all accidents caused by pedestrians to “children under 7 unaccompanied or inadequately supervised”. It may be that the word “pedestrian” did not suggest children as well as adults to informants but if this is not the case the omission is in line with previous results indicating a lack of understanding of the special dangers of accidents from and to children.

If the word “pedestrian” does exclude children for most informants then comments can only be compared with the Road Accident report figures if the lines here dealing with children are omitted. A second column referring to the Road Accident report figures has therefore been inserted.

If the Sample figures and Column (a) are compared it appears that the general public to some extent under-emphasizes the danger of crossing roads needlessly.

It will be seen that about the same weight is given, by informants and Column (b) to the first and third groups of actions. The general public seems however on both bases to lay undue emphasis on the second and fourth groups of actions of pedestrians.

308 informants, 16.2% of the sample, did not mention any actions on the part of cyclists which might result in accidents; of these 1.7% said they thought cyclists were careful. The remaining 1594 informants gave between them 2164 answers to the question.

Table 17.

“What actions by cyclists would you say are likely to result in accidents?”

Actions thought to be dangerous % Actions mentioned % Accidents caused by cyclists as shown in Statistics
Riding too many abreast 27.3 0.1
Excessive speed 13.5 5.0
Turning from one road into another without due care 8.4 20.6
Losing control - riding without holding to handlebars 7.7 7.5
Failing to keep to rearside or proper traffic lane 7.3 5.0
Failure to signal giving incorrect or indistinct signal 6.6 5.0
Inattentive or attention diverted 5.1 16.2
Overtaking improperly, cutting in 4.4 3.6
Holding on to another vehicle 4.0 0.3
Failure to comply with traffic sign or signals 3.7 1.3
Hampered by passenger or luggage 1.5 1.8
Swerving 1.1 9.1
Skidding .7 8.5
Failure to stop at pedestrian crossings .4 0.9
Misjudging distances - 5.5
Others 8.3 9.6
SAMPLE: No. of actions mentioned 2164

It is clear from this table that the general public is not well informed of the road dangers due to cyclists. Undue weight is given to “riding too many abreast” and excessive speed and too little weight to dangers from cyclists at corners. This last finding confirms previous evidence of the lack of vigilance at corners. Much too little weight is given by the general public to the dangers from cyclists “swerving” or “skidding” or being “inattentive” to the road and having their “attention diverted”.

The percentages of the sample not mentioning any dangerous actions with reference to particular sorts of drivers are given later. Percentages in Table 18 are based, as before, on the total number of actions mentioned, and these numbers are shown on the bottom line or the table. It may be noted that the numbers vary amongst the different sorts of drivers, more actions being mentioned with reference to motor-cyclists, private car drivers and service drivers than with reference to other groups.

Table 18.

“What actions by the following groups of drivers would you say are likely to result in accidents?”

% Actions Mentioned
Motor Cyclists Private Car Drivers Bus Drivers Heavy Lorry Drivers Small Lorry & Van Drivers Army, Navy, Air Force Drivers % Accidents attributed to drivers in Road Accident Statistics
Excessive speed 76.0 26.5 25.8 37.0 44.6 60.2 9.1
Overtaking improperly, cutting in 12.1 19.5 15.9 7.2 17.1 3.3 10.2
Failure to keep to rearside or proper traffic lanes 1.6 1.6 2.7 2.3 4.5 3.9 5.7
Inattentive, attention diverted .5 2.7 2.7 .- - - 9.8
Misjudging clearances .5 - - - 1.1 - 9.2
Skidding .5 - - 1.2 - .6 10.4
Pulling up suddenly .5 1.0 - 1.2 2.1 - 2.7
Hampered by passenger, dog or luggage in or on vehicle .5 - - - - - -
Failure to stop at pedestrian crossings .5 3.8 - 1.2 1.1 - 1.8
Failure to signal or giving incorrect or indistinct signals .5 9.8 2.7 3.5 10.3 .6 2.3
Failure to comply with traffic sign or signal .5 5.4 - 6.0 1.1 2.6 2.5
Turning from one road into another without due care 3.4 9.2 4.5 3.5 8.5 7.1 12.9
Opening vehicle doors carelessly - 2.7 - - 1.1 - 1.6
Under the influence of drink or drugs - 2.7 - - - - 0.8
Inexperienced with type of vehicle in use at the time - 1.6 - - - - 1.3
Losing control - .5 - - - - 3.4
Forcing way through tramcar passengers - .5 - - - - 0.6
Fatigued - - 5.8 9.5 - .6 0.1
Not enough time allowed for stepping on and off bus - - 18.7 - - - -
Swerving - - - 1.2 - - 4.7
Reversing negligently - - - - - .6 2.0
No thought for other road users - - - - - 7.7 -
Reckless, inefficient, careless - - - - - 8.4 -
Others 2.8 12.5 21.6 26.1 8.5 4.5 8.9
SAMPLE: 1430 1436 555 661 715 1229

It is clear that there is underestimation of the dangers from motorists being “inattentive to the road”, misjudging clearances, skidding. Only with regard to “excessive speed” is the general public materially overestimating the danger. This table indicates sharply that there is failure on the part of the general public to recognise the types of behaviour most likely to cause accidents.

In this connection it should be remarked, however, that as a large proportion of the informants wore pedestrians it may be the case that they lay more emphasis on faults, such as excessive speed, which were likely to affect them as pedestrians than on faults, such as misjudging clearances etc., which were liable to be dangerous to other vehicles.

It will be seen that the chief fault attributed by the general public to motor cyclists is “excessive speed”. It would be useful to have available for comparison the proportion of all accidents attributed by accident reports to motor cyclists travelling at “excessive speed”.

Many informants were unable to think of any particular dangers from drivers and in some cases commented that the particular type of driver had “no fault” or was careful on the roads. This is valuable negative information for, clearly, if informants were worried or alert about the possibility of dangers from particular kinds of drivers, such comments would be few.

In the table below are given the proportions of the Sample making such comments when asked about the dangerous actions of different kinds of drivers.

Pedestrians Cyclists Motor Cyclists Private Car Bus Driver Heavy Lorry Small Lorry Service Vehicle
Careful, no faults 0.8 1.7 4.5 8.6 39.3 22.4 10.8 10.5
Don’t Know 6.6 10.8 22.3 22.5 28.0 33.6 42.3 23.0
No Answer 4.1 3.7 6.6 7.4 10.0 13.3 15.5 12.1

As between the different types of motorists, bus drivers are thought by the largest proportion to be “careful drivers” or to have “no faults”. Private car drivers and service vehicle drivers are much less well thought of in this connection.

The drivers are much more favourably regarded as a group than pedestrians or cyclists and the proportions saying “Don’t Know” or giving no answer for drivers are much higher than similar proportions for pedestrians or cyclists. Clearly the public attitude to drivers is much less positive in its attribution of fault than it is to other road users. This fact is important when considered together with the following tables.

According to the 1937 Report on Road Accidents the proportions of road accidents due to the main groups of road users are:

Fatal Accident Accident causing injury
% %
Motorists 33 34
Cyclist 17 23
Pedestrians 39 30

It will be seen that motorists play almost as large a role as pedestrians as causes of fatal accidents and slightly larger role than pedestrians as cause of accidents involving injury.

According to this report all accidents were attributed to the various types of drivers as follows:-

Table 19.

Proportions of all accidents attributable to various types of drivers as follows

Private motor 47.5
Public Conveyance 5.3
Motor Vans, Lorries 18.2
Other mechanically propelled vehicles 0.4
Motor cycles 27.4
Miscellaneous, including horsedrawn vehicles 1.2
Number of Accidents 69372

From this table it will be seen that a much larger proportion of all accidents is attributed to motorists than to motorcyclists.

Examination of the table giving the percentages saying “Careful” and “Don’t Know” in the light of the above figures would suggest that in general public opinion insufficient weight is given to the dangers due to motorists. Further as between motor cyclists, pedal cyclists and motorists undue weight in verbal expressions of opinion is given to the dangers due to motor cyclists and pedal cyclists.

In so far as a public education campaign will seek to make the general public aware of the various dangers of road accidents this point seems important.

The final table in this section of the report is concerned with general opinion on the dangerous actions of children. Here, once again, some informants have given more than one example of dangerous action.

Table 20.

“What do you think children do which is especially dangerous?”

Rushing into roads without looking 34
Playing in streets or rushing into roads without looking 27
Playing in streets 26
Hanging on to vehicles 6
Riding bicycles dangerously or in main roads 4
Miscellaneous 3
Nothing 2
Don’t know, can’t say 3
No answer 1

A little less than 53% of the sample mention “playing in the streets” and about 61% "rushing into the roads without looking”.

The evidence of this section may be summed up as follows:

The general public are seen to give due weight in their verbal estimates of road dangers to the dangers of pedestrians crossing roads heedlessly or not paying attention to oncoming traffic masked by obstruction. Observation of road behaviour however, showed that half of the sample observed failed to give special care to this last point in practice. On the whole undue weight seems to be given, in expressed opinion, to the dangers of “jay walking” by pedestrians.

The general public seems to be badly informed of the particular road dangers due to cyclists. Undue weight in expressed opinion is given to cyclists riding too many abreast and to their “excessive speed” and too little weight to dangers from cyclists at corners.

There is an underestimation of the dangers due to motorists in general and in particular to their misjudging clearances, skidding and turning corners without due care and over-much weight in verbal estimates to dangers from “excessive speed” on the part of motorists.

These conclusions may, however, be affected by the fact that the informants were to a large extent pedestrians and therefore unlikely to appreciate the importance of certain faults of motor drivers and other road users.

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