Scholarly article on topic 'Traffic risk behavior and perceptions of Thai motorcyclists: A case study'

Traffic risk behavior and perceptions of Thai motorcyclists: A case study Academic research paper on "Economics and business"

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Abstract of research paper on Economics and business, author of scientific article — Prathurng Hongsranagon, Theerachai Khompratya, Surbpong Hongpukdee, Piyalamporn Havanond, Nathawan Deelertyuenyong

Abstract This study aimed to investigate Thai motorcyclists' traffic risk behavior and their perceptions of it, information of value in the design and implementation of public health policies and campaigns for the reduction of road injuries. Data was collected by a self-administered questionnaire completed by 399 motorcyclists in Muang Krabi district, Krabi province, Thailand. The questionnaire focused on the respondents' perceptions of general traffic risks and the specific risks at 3 identified hazardous sites. The results of the survey indicated that the correct fastening of helmet straps had a relationship with responsible traffic risk perceptions.

Academic research paper on topic "Traffic risk behavior and perceptions of Thai motorcyclists: A case study"

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IATSS Research

ÍATSS RESEARCH

Traffic risk behavior and perceptions of Thai motorcyclists: A case study

Prathurng Hongsranagon a'*, Theerachai Khompratya^1, Surbpong Hongpukdeec2, Piyalamporn Havanond a'3, Nathawan Deelertyuenyong a'3

a College of Public Health Sciences, Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand b Road Safety Engineer Independent Researcher, Khon Kaen, Thailand

c Faculty of Management Science, Ubon Ratchathani University, Warinchamrab, Ubon Ratchathanee, Thailand

ARTICLE INFO

ABSTRACT

Article history:

Received 22 September 2010

Received in revised form 14 February 2011

Accepted 3 March 2011

Keywords:

Traffic risk behavior

Traffic risk perceptions

Motorcyclists

Thailand

This study aimed to investigate Thai motorcyclists' traffic risk behavior and their perceptions of it, information of value in the design and implementation of public health policies and campaigns for the reduction of road injuries. Data was collected by a self-administered questionnaire completed by 399 motorcyclists in Muang Krabi district, Krabi province, Thailand. The questionnaire focused on the respondents' perceptions of general traffic risks and the specific risks at 3 identified hazardous sites. The results of the survey indicated that the correct fastening of helmet straps had a relationship with responsible traffic risk perceptions. © 2011 International Association of Traffic and Safety Sciences. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

1. Introduction

Injuries are one of the world's major public health concerns alongside communicable diseases, non-communicable diseases, mental health, and malnutrition. Understanding road-users' perceptions of traffic risk behavior is an effective means of contributing to traffic safety campaigns, especially the perceptions of risk of motorcyclists. In Thailand, motorcycles are a popular form of transport but are involved in a disproportionate number of the nation's accidents, injuries, and fatalities.

The paper is divided into five parts - an introduction, a literature review, a methodology section, an outline of results, and a discussion and conclusion section.

2. Literature review

Road accidents are the world's most common cause of injury-related fatalities [1]. By 2020 they are predicted to be the world's third leading cause of mortality. Currently, about 85.0% of road accident

* Corresponding author. Tel.: +66 2 218 8049. E-mail addresses: Prathurng.H@chula.ac.th, arbeit_3@hotmail.com (P. Hongsranagon), t_khompratya@yahoo.com (T. Khompratya), surbpongubu@hotmail.com (S. Hongpukdee), piyalamporn.h@chula.ac.th (P. Havanond), yee2501@yahoo.com (N. Deelertyuenyong).

1 Tel.: +66 1 544 2322.

2 Tel.: +66 1 845 6169.

3 Tel.: +66 2 218 8144.

fatalities occur in low- and middle-income countries [2]. In Thailand, accidents involving motorcycles account for more than 80.0% oftraffic injuries [3]. Accidents involving motorcyclists in Thailand are increasing not only in number but also in severity [4] due to the vulnerability of the riders' exposed situation, speed, limited driving experience, and risk-taking behavior [5].

Behavioral factors have been recognized as a major contributor to 95.0% of traffic accidents [6] and an understanding of traffic risk behaviors and traffic risk perceptions may predict drivers' actions. Deery (1999) [7] defined traffic risk perceptions as subjective interpretations of the risks involved in various traffic situations (p. 226). It was found that a higher level of perceived risk for a particular behavior was associated with a lower chance of an individual's participation in that behavior [8]. Rundmo (1999) [9] recognized that changing perceptions of risk was an important factor in the change of behavioral patterns. Risk perception is closely related to social psychology [10 p. 409] as it is believed to relate to drivers' behavior in different groups of society [11].

The assessment of road-users' perceptions of individual hazards helps public health administrations to take into account the expectations, perceptions, and needs of road-users when designing and implementing policies, messages, and actions [12]. However, evidence-based investigations of motorcyclists' perceptions of traffic risks in developing countries are rare [13], including Thailand. Krabi province, a rural area, is located on the west coast of southern Thailand with 408,898 residents (year 2008 statistics). Local employment is mainly dependent on agricultural plantations of palm and rubber trees. The province has 8 districts and the downtown area of Muang Krabi has the highest number of road crashes in the province. From October 2008

0386-1112/$ - see front matter © 2011 International Association of Traffic and Safety Sciences. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved. doi:10.1016/j.iatssr.2011.03.001

to July 2009, there were 656 recorded cases of road crashes in Muang Krabi, an average of 65.6 per month or between 2 and 3 per day, resulting in 25 deaths and 427 injuries. Collisions between motorcycles and automobiles accounted for 43.1% of these crashes and 65.0% of road accidents took place on straight roads.

There are few scientific publications on the public's perceptions of general traffic safety features in Krabi, especially from the local motorcyclists' point of view [14]. This study aimed to investigate the traffic risk behavior and perceptions of it of 399 motorcyclists in Muang Krabi district in general and at three identified hazardous traffic sites in particular.

3. Methodology

3.1. Study area, study period, and study design

Muang Krabi district was selected as the geographical area for this study due to its high number of road accidents. Data collection occurred over two periods. The first was from August 2009 to January 2010 and involved the collection of primary and secondary data by the Ethical Review COA number 131/2552 from the Ethics Review Committee for Research Involving Human Subjects, Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand. This first period of data collection used local public participation to identify three hazardous traffic sites in the study area. These were Muang Krabi School, Klong Ji-lard Intersection, and in front of Krabi Hospital. To optimize the data collection of the entire project according to road safety principles, the second period of data collection was in April 2010 and involved a separate survey on general and site-specific traffic risk perceptions of 399 motorcyclists. A questionnaire based on a number of sources in the literature [15] was used to collect data from the motorcyclists. In addition to general demographic data, the questionnaire included questions related to different hazardous situations and risky human factors, unsafe infrastructure (road surfaces and roadside conditions), motorcycle conditions, and traffic environment. The questionnaire was pre-tested in Chonburi province in Eastern Thailand and produced a satisfactory reliability value of higher than 0.75. The required number of participants in the study was calculated by a statistical formula from Daniel (2005, p.189) [16] with the assumption of maximum variance of the proportion of traffic risk perception prevalence in Thai motorcyclists at 0.5. This indicated a required sample size of 384 and 400 motorcyclists were surveyed to account for any incomplete questionnaires. The number of completed questionnaires was 399.

Based on purposive and convenience sampling, the researchers approached motorcyclists at each hazardous site. Those who made themselves available and were willing to participate were asked to complete the questionnaire. The motorcyclists were informed in writing that their voluntary participation in the study would have no detrimental effect on them, all information was confidential and given anonymously, and data would be used for academic purposes only. To be included in the study, participants had to be over 18 years of age, have lived in the area for more than 6 months, own their motorcycle, and be regular motorcyclists. The participants were required to consider the items about perceptions of traffic risks generally and at specific hazardous sites in their neighborhood as 'risky,' 'not sure,' or 'not risky.' Opinions on potential causes of road crashes in Muang Krabi district, especially among young (less than 25 years old) male motorcyclists, were also obtained. It took on average of 30 min to complete the questionnaire.

3.2. Statistical analysis of the survey

Descriptive statistics used were frequencies, percentages, means, and standard deviations. The statistical association between the variables was assessed by means of Fisher's Exact Test, odds ratio

(OR), and 95% confidence interval (CI). For all analyses, a p-value of <0.05 was considered statistically significant.

4. Results

In terms of the general demographic data, the respondents were on average 28 years old, mostly male (60.5%), with secondary school and bachelor degree educational levels (29.0% and 31.0% respectively). About one-quarter was wage-earners (24.7%), 31.3% were students, and the average length of riding experience was 13 years. Most (70.4%) rode daily and approximately half (50.4%) of this riding was done in Muang Krabi district. The majority (92.2%) held a valid license. Around two-thirds of them (66.2%) had never had an accident resulting in severe physical injury or serious property damage and those who had had accidents (33.8%) had an average of two accidents in the past 7 years. In general, their perceptions of traffic risks were very high.

At the three specific hazardous traffic sites, the majority of the respondents also perceived existing hazardous conditions as 'risky'. Of importance, more than half (52.9%) of the participants 'always' wore a helmet when riding. Of these, 60.9% 'always' fastened the helmet strap. The use of the helmet strap had a statistical relationship with traffic risk perceptions of the respondents at p-value 0.021 (see Table 1) and the riders who fastened their helmet straps 'every time' when riding perceived traffic risks 3.39 times (95% confidence interval = 0.841-12.193) greater than those who did not fasten their helmet straps (see Table 2). They viewed the main causes of traffic accidents among young motorcyclists in Muang Krabi district as the results of human behavioral factors, for instance, violating safety traffic laws (76.8%) and drunk riding (65.0%). Most of the respondents (82.8%) wanted to see a re-emphasis on the policy of cultivating an awareness and conscience of 'shared' road use to increase the importance of other people's safety regarding life and property. Also, the majority of the respondents wanted strict enforcement of traffic laws (79.0%) and the promotion of helmets and helmet strap use when riding (65.0%) as solutions to the reduction of road crashes in Muang Krabi district.

5. Discussion and conclusion

About half (53.0%) of the adult male respondents in this study wore helmets when they rode their motorcycles. This percentage is the same as the average national rate of helmet use in Thailand (year 2010 from a sample size of 954,956 motorcyclists and passengers through a nationwide observational study) [17]. The majority (61.0%) of the riders fastened their helmet straps and these riders perceived traffic risks at a rate 3.4 times greater than those riders who did not

Table 1

Relationship between the use of helmet straps when riding and perceptions of traffic

risks.

(n = 399).

Traffic risk perception

Medium

Fisher's exact test p-value

How often do you fasten the helmet strap when riding? Every time 237 5 1 0.021*

Mostly 89 2 0

Sometimes 53 1 2

Never 7 2 0

p-value < 0.05.

It was found that motorcyclists who wore helmets and 'every time' fastened their helmet straps had perceptions of traffic risks 3.39 times (95% confidence interval = 0.841-12.193) greater than those who did not fasten the helmet straps when riding (see Table 2).

Table 2

Relationship between the fastening of helmet straps and perceptions of traffic risks. (n = 399).

Items Traffic risk Odds perception ratio 95% confidence interval (CI) p-value

High Low

Do you fasten the helmet strap when riding? Yes 326 8 3.39 No 60 5 0.841-12.193 0.0277

p-value < 0.05.

wear helmets and did not fasten the helmet straps (Table 2). To reduce the human behavioral factors that mainly caused traffic accidents in Muang Krabi district, the respondents presented views that other motorcyclists should care more about other road users' life and property (82.8%), should use one's safety helmet (79.0%), and should fasten the helmet strap (65.0%) every time when riding.

Literature emphasized the fact that standard safety helmets reduced the frequency and severity of head and brain injuries resulting from motorcycle crashes [18], particularly in single motorcycle crashes and head-on collisions [19]. This reduction was achieved by attenuating head acceleration and distributing the impact force over a larger area of the head than in situations without a helmet [20]. Since helmet use laws benefit-cost ratios range from 2.3 to 5.07 [21], laws concerning mandatory helmet use were passed in both developed and developing countries [22]. In wearing a helmet correctly, the strap of a helmet must be fixed firmly at the chin to prevent neck injuries [23]. When the strap is loose, there is a high risk of the helmet slipping backwards, causing it to be suspended from the hyoid bone region. If it slips violently, as happens in traffic accidents, this can result in severe injuries to the neck [24]. It was estimated that proper helmet use reduced the death rate of motorcyclists and passengers involved in road traffic crashes by approximately 40.0% and the severity of head injury by 72.0% [25]. This was confirmed by Thailand's most up-to-date national research in 2011 that used statistical modeling and data analysis from the national network of hospital injury surveillance, and stated that safety helmet use helped reduced mortality from road crash head injuries by 43.0% for riders and 58.0% for passengers [26].

In Thailand, helmet laws for motorcyclists were introduced nationwide in December 1994 and required both drivers and passengers to wear helmets. As in many other developing countries, Thai motorcycle riders mostly wear their helmets when traveling on national highways and principal routes during weekdays and during morning and afternoon peak traffic hours to satisfy police surveillance [27]. A study of 77,334 motorcyclists and passengers that collected data by a nationwide interview revealed the top ten reasons for non-helmet use included: (1) a short travel distance (64.0%) (2) not riding on main roads (37.0%) (3) in a hurry (29.0%) (4) physical discomfort and dirt (sharing the use of the helmet with others) (21.0%) (5) hairstyle concerns (13.0%) (6) unable to carry the helmet (10.0%) (7) lax law enforcement (8.0%) (8) did not own a helmet (7.0%) (9) believed in low chance of having an accident (6.0%) and (10) co-rider had no helmet (4.0%). Over half (55.0%) of the respondents were not aware that passengers without a helmet could result in fines for the drivers and the passengers, and 13% did not know that that it was illegal to be a passenger without a helmet [28]. Ichikawa, Chadbunchachai, and Marui (2003) investigated the effect of the helmet act on helmet use and the reduction in deaths due to motorcycle crashes. Based on data between 1994-1995 (pre-act) versus 1996-1997 (post-act) compiled at the Khon Kaen Regional Hospital in Khon Kaen province in NorthEast Thailand, a total of 12,002 injured motorcyclists were analyzed. After the helmet law was introduced, helmet use increased from 4.5 to 22.6% within the municipality and from 3.7 to 13.3% outside the municipality. While there was a proportional reduction in head

injuries (41.4%), the death rates of injured motorcyclists remained similar (20.8%) between the pre-act (1.0%) and post-act (1.2%) periods. The authors stated, "It is possible that motorcyclists who usually drive safely and are less likely to be involved in traffic crashes tend to wear a helmet" (p. 188). On the other hand, they said, "It is possible that motorcyclists increasingly wear a helmet but improperly" (p. 188). It was recommended that instruction be introduced for Thai motorcyclists to encourage proper and consistent helmet use for their own safety, that authorities start an investigation of the socio-cultural context for proper helmet use, and educational activities be improved [29]. Pitaktong et al. (2004) [30] indicated that there were no published studies regarding motorcycle riding and helmet use and their correlation with other risk behaviors of Thai youth. Most data for the country were based on traffic injury statistics for which the total numbers of accidents during the stipulated period were used as the denominator. The 1999 study was a cross-sectional research design aimed at assessing the prevalence of motorcyclists without helmets and associated risk behaviors among adolescents and young adults in Chiang Rai province in Upper North Thailand. Demographic data indicated that there were 1,725 male and female students from local vocational schools aged between 15 and 21 years. From the classroom-based audio-computer-assisted self-interview (ACASI), male students had a higher prevalence of non-helmet use compared to female students (72.7% and 64.4% respectively). Male students were also at high risk for riding with unfastened helmet straps. One of the variables associated with riders without helmets was having had 3 or more alcoholic drinks (odds ratio = 2.21, 95% confidence interval = 1.76-2.21). Nakahara et al. (2005) conducted a study based on the trauma registry system database (years 1998-2002) of Khon Kaen Regional Hospital and found that motorcyclists without helmets accounted for 74.9% and these had a higher risk of fatal injuries than helmeted riders (odds ratio = 3.87, 95% confidence interval = 1.629.90). Intoxicated motorcyclists represented 36.5% and had a higher risk of fatal injuries than sober individuals (odds ratio = 2.97, 95% confidence interval = 1.78-4.97) [31]. Tanaboriboon (2006) [32] found that 13.8% ofThai males and females wore their safety helmets but this figure decreased to 7.0% when intoxicated. Swaddiwudhipong et al. (1998) [33] succeeded in a village-based motorcycle rider education program in North Thailand in modifying participants' behavior in wearing a helmet and having a valid license. Being an intervention-control and before (1995)-after (1997) research design, the study found lower injuries and less fatal injuries from motorcycle road accidents. However, there was no change in intoxication risk behavior. Other international research papers on the practice of motorcyclists in developing countries found a high incidence of incorrect helmet and helmet strap use and that the accident situations were worsened by intoxication (cited in Li et al., 2008) [34].

While there is a vast amount of literature on traffic risk behavior and perceptions related to automobile drivers [35], there appears to be a scarcity regarding the motorcycle population. This study was limited by its design as a cross-sectional survey that lacked further investigation of riders' drinking and driving behavior but it contributed to the literature concerning Thai motorcyclists' traffic risk behavior and perceptions based on data collected directly in the roadside context. Helmeted riders with fastened straps were identified as riders' with controlled behavior who tended to have a sense of urgency in 'caring' for other road-users and such an attitude should help reduce road crashes. On the contrary, riders with unfastened straps may have a false sense of security resulting in greater risk-taking and speeding leading to more severe accidents.

In addition to police surveillance, a safety campaign directed at motorcyclists in Muang Krabi district should target those riders with no helmets and unfastened straps to increase awareness of risks. Prevention of motorcycle road accidents brings about a significant reduction in the loss of lives, reduces social loss and burden, promotes quality of life, and improves economic growth through the

maintenance of productive citizens. The wearing of helmets must be a safety and public health issue, proving that people value their lives instead of merely complying with a legal requirement. Correctly wearing safety helmets should become societal norms in Krabi.

Acknowledgements

The authors gratefully acknowledge the Muang Krabi District Office of Public Works and Town & Country Planning for the Geographic Information System Map of Muang Krabi District. Appreciation is extended to all parties relevant to the study including all survey respondents. Thanks go to Bob Tremayne for his English language assistance. This research was partially supported by the Asahi Glass Foundation. The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.

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