From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Traffic psychology is a relatively young field of applied psychology that is primarily related to the study of the behavior of road users and the psychological processes underlying that behavior [1]. The relationship between behavior and accidents is also a critical aspect of this field.

Traffic psychology deals with the noncognitive, cognitive, and sensory-motor aspects of people in the context of driving, dealing with traffic, and dealing with others. By identifying feelings that cause cognitive thoughts, traffic psychology allows us to understand our resulting actions and gives us a productive and reliable way of modifying our behavior.

Traffic psychology can be defined as a tool, which, through subjective analysis, helps to increase the overall quality of lives through behavioral observation, identification, and modification.

Because there is no single, basic structure of traffic psychology, there is likely no single origin either-- rather it is a discipline that adopts and applies more general psychological theory to understand and interpret behavior related to traffic and mobility.

The task of traffic psychology is to understand, predict and provide measures to modify road user behavior at levels identified with as general objective to minimize the harmful effects of traffic participation.[2]

Behavior research[edit]

Behavior research in traffic psychology often deals with subjects like motivation, personality and gender differences, habits, overconfidence, age and skill differences, attention, and violation of traffic rules.[3]

Driving, as a complex everyday task, allows for a wide range of theories and methodologies to be tested and elaborated in a highly relevant applied context.[1]

A yield sign.
Yield sign.

Although sharp distinctions are not always possible, a classification of behavioral factors into those that reduce driving capability and that that promote risky behavior with further division into those with short- and long-term impact helps the conceptualization of the problems and may contribute to the prioritization of positive behavior modification.[4]

Accident research[edit]

In addition to behavior research, accident research is also a key component in traffic psychology, looking at driving methodology, individual differences, characteristics of personality, temporary impairments, and relevant capabilities, the driver as an information processor (includes perception and reaction times), human factors on highway accidents, and the pedestrian (identifying vulnerability, causes and prevention of accidents). [5]

Human factors[edit]

Examination of the operator plays a large role in transportation psychology. While many external factors influence traffic safety, internal factors are also significant. Some factors include:

  • Decision-making
  • Demographics
  • Distraction
  • Drugs and alcohol
  • Driving training and experience
  • Familiarity with vehicle and environment
  • Fatigue
  • Inattention
  • Response to the unexpected
  • Risky behaviors
  • Stress and panic

By addressing these issues, it is widely believed that transportation safety can be greatly improved.


Transportation psychology has emerged rapidly since the 1980s and, from its inception, has followed an interdisciplinary approach and has shared common topics with other fields, in particular medicine (e.g. driving aptitude), engineering (e.g. ergonomics and human factors), and economics (e.g. travel demand management). People, as road users, are seen as the core of an interactive transportation system. Thus, mobility, including its positive and negative repercussions, originates in people’s decisions and behavior – and these could be influenced. The main causes of traffic accidents are errors due to maladaptive behavior in interaction with roadways or other vehicles.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Rothengatter, T. (1997). Psychological aspects of road user behavior. Applied Psychology: An International Review, 46, 3, 223-234. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "rot" defined multiple times with different content (see the help page).
  2. ^ Barjonet, P. (2001). Traffic psychology today. (1st ed., p. 4). Norwell, Massachusettes: Kluwer Academic Publishers.
  3. ^ Rothengatter and Groeger (1998-08-17). "Traffic psychology and behaviour". Science Direct. Retrieved 2013-03-13. 
  4. ^ Human Factors in the Causation of Road Traffic Crashes Eleni Petridou and Maria Moustaki, European Journal of Epidemiology , Vol. 16, No. 9 (2000), pp. 819-826,
  5. ^ Shinar, D. (1978). Psychology on the road: The human factor in traffic safety. (1st ed.). Berkshire, United Kingdom: Transport Research Laboratory.

Further reading[edit]

  • PASS - Psychological and medical assistance for safe mobility. An interdisciplinary model to promote and secure mobility competence in Europe.
  • Barjonet, P. E. (Hrsg). (2001). transportation psychology today. Boston, London: Kluwer Academic Publishers.
  • Groeger, J. A., Rothengatter, J. A. (1998). transportation psychology and behavior. Transportation Research Part F, 1 (1), 1-9.
  • James, Leon and Nahl, Diane. Road Rage and Aggressive Driving (Amherst, N.Y.: Prometheus Books, 2000.)
  • Novaco, R. W. (2001). Psychology of Transportation. International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences, 15878-15882.
  • Rothengatter, T. & Huguenin, D. (eds.) (2004). transportation and Transport Psychology. Theory and Application. Proceedings of the ICTTP 2000. Oxford: Elsevier.
  • Underwood, G. (ed.) (2005). transportation and Transport Psychology. Theory and Application. Proceedings of the ICTTP 2004. Oxford: Elsevier.
  • Wilde G. J. S. (1994). Target risk: dealing with the danger of death, disease and damage in everyday decisions. Toronto: PDE Publ.

Relevant journals[edit]

Encyclopedias, information services, statistics[edit]

Research organisations, online resources[edit]

Category:Car safety Category:Road transportation management Category:Applied psychology