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Venue: Online
Date: Thursday, November 26th, 2020
Host: International Association of Traffic and Safety Sciences (IATSS)

Opening Address

Kazuhiko Takeuchi
IATSS President
President, Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES)
Project Professor, the University of Tokyo

Professor Kazuhiko Takeuchi, President, IATSS; President, Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES); Project Professor, Institute for Future Initiatives, University of Tokyo, began by giving the opening address for the sixth Global Interactive Forum on Traffic and Safety (GIFTS) symposium on Diversity in Traffic Culture and Unsafe Behavior. He greeted all the participants and panelists for joining the webinar today. He also extended his appreciation to the International Road Federation (IRF), Université Gustave Eiffel, the World Bank, and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) for their valuable support in making the symposium possible.


Since its establishment in 1974, IATSS has sought the creation of an optimum transportation system through research focusing on traffic and associated sectors. During this time traffic conditions around the world have undergone immense changes, and there are more than 1.3 million traffic fatalities annually around the world, which will increase further in the future, in particular in developing countries. This is an urgent issue that needs to be addressed along with further efforts in a broad range of fields, including climate change.


In 2014, IATSS developed four policies to focus on over the long term: global safety, with the aim of making further efforts on the global scale to improve traffic safety; placing a greater importance on the field of traffic culture, noting that there are different types of regional and national developments; adopting a transdisciplinary approach that, in addition to academic fields, involves administrators and planners of real world scenarios encompassing traffic; and the need for ongoing, cooperative discourse involving people not only from Japan but from around the world who have different values and cultures.


IATSS views traffic culture as a way of encompassing the various traffic policies in various countries and regions and how to best realize the goals of such policies, and believes that it is vital to provide a proactive approach for discussions to develop methods that are effective amidst a broad range of values.


Overview of Objectives

Yuto Kitamura
IATSS Member / Chairman, International Forum Committee
Associate Professor, Graduate School of Education, The University of Tokyo

Dr. Yuto Kitamura, IATSS; Chairman, International Forum Committee; Associate Professor, Graduate School of Education, University of Tokyo, explained the goals of IATSS, which is to realize a society with safe and secure transportation. In order to achieve this goal, IATSS has been promoting interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary approaches, and strongly believes that organizing the symposium each year is one way to encourage such initiatives.


The five symposiums to date have covered themes of various traffic cultures rooted in each region, traffic culture and safety, public transport and traffic safety, thinking about traffic safety from other culture’s aspects, and social culture organizations and traffic safety. By focusing on traffic culture, discussions on these topics have been held on a wide variety of levels, in order to think more deeply about how to achieve a society with safe and secure transportation. Through the course of these dialogues, topics related to transportation have been covered, and the last five symposiums yielded fruitful discussions. In these forums, experts have been invited from many countries, as well as experts from international organizations such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Asian Development Bank (ADB), who have shared their insights based on their rich experiences and a broad range of their perspectives.


It is important to think about the way a safe and secure transportation society should be developed as a baseline for future discussions, as a way for IATSS to contribute to the international community by utilizing international forums such as GIFTS itself. We need to think about what kind of situations are occurring around the world and what types of challenges are appearing, as well as what experts should be doing to tackle these challenges. The role that GIFTS will play as a venue for valuable discussions is certainly a significant one.


Today’s symposium will focus on the concept of traffic culture, following from the previous symposiums. By doing so, the four panelists will provide their insights with a range of specific examples from a broad theoretical framework and practical experiences, including the importance of developing and implementing integrated systems for traffic safety. By analyzing topics from academic and practical approaches, the goal of GIFTS is to gain new insights with a seamless blend of both perspectives.


Lecture 1

Soames Job
Head of the Global Road Safety Facility, and Global Lead Road Safety with the World Bank

Kazuyuki Neki
Junior Professional Officer, The Global Road Safety Facility, World Bank

Dr. Soames Job, Head of the Global Road Safety Facility (GRSF), Global Lead for Road Safety (GLRS), World Bank, and Mr. Kazuyuki Neki, Junior Professional Officer, GRSF, GLRS, World Bank, presented a lecture on the role of cultural diversity in the management of road safety.


Culture, race, politics etc., have very complex interrelationships which are not easily separated, but these all influence the culture of road safety behavior itself, and there are many underlying causes for those. One of the main causes for variations in behavior is the way countries manage road safety, and the cultural influences of road safety management itself become incredibly important for one single culture variation.


There are several broad factors that influence the behavior of the culture that people perceive: situations influence behavior much more than personalities and therefore the situation that road safety management creates on roads is a huge determiner of on-road behavior; it is important to consider where culture variation occurs, which is often within countries as well as between countries; differences in who manages road safety are also influential, such as in the US where there are over 18,000 forces managing road safety, whereas other countries only have one.


Dr. Job raised the topic that the economy of countries is influential on road safety management, but also explained that it is important to resist the view that the economy is the main driver of road safety. There many other major drivers, and culture is one of them. Culture has fundamental impacts on road safety and management. If there is a high societal value on human life, then prevention rather than punishment is fundamentally supported, societal responses are more highly valued, and government and laws become critical, thereby making enforcement feasible.


Dr. Job then closed his lecture with four key messages: cultural differences within countries matter in road safety; cultural differences are not restricted to on-road behaviors; culture deeply influences road safety management; and road safety management influences on-road safety behavior.


Lecture 2

George Yannis
Professor, the National Technical University of Athens (NTUA)

In the second lecture, Professor George Yannis, School of Civil Engineering, National Technical University of Athens (NTUA), presented a lecture on global diversity in traffic safety culture.


Professor Yannis highlighted that traffic culture is the key concept in traffic safety as the root cause encompassing all human factors related to road accidents. The human factors relate not only to road user’s behavior but also to the behavior of all the road safety related authorities and stakeholders under the safe system approach. The lecture used key global road safety statistics to emphasize the extent of road safety and road related fatalities over the last decade. It is clear that more coordinated efforts are required at all levels to achieve the targets set by the European Union, but the goal of halving road accident fatalities between 2010 and 2020 is unlikely to be achieved although important steps have been achieved.


Professor Yannis then introduced the objectives of the NTUA studies, which is to capture the global diversity in traffic safety culture and behavior of road users. He also introduced The ESRA (E-Survey of Road Users’ Attitudes) Project, a joint international initiative of research centers and road safety institutes across the world.


Professor Yannis also gave several regional comparisons, which highlighted that measuring safety culture is not a straightforward issue, but one main way of measuring traffic culture is to identify attitudes and dangerous behaviors. Comparatively all regions believe that unsafe traffic behaviors are often a cause of road crashes involving a car, but the acceptability of unsafe behavior varies by region, as does self-declared behavior by both drivers and pedestrians, who do not tell the truth behind the causes of accidents in order to avoid prosecution for serious offences.


Professor Yannis concluded his lecture by highlighting that despite the high perception of risk and low acceptability of unsafe behavior, there is still a high percentage of drivers who engage in such behavior in all the regions. Overall the results of self-declared behavior and personal acceptability are consistent when compared by region, however there are inconsistencies when comparing personal acceptability and self-declared behaviors. There are several differences in the attitude and opinions of road users in different regions, which highlights the variations in road safety cultures. It is crucial to understand the meaning of traffic safety culture. Furthermore, a systematic implementation of integrated road safety policies by multiple levels of society are necessary for the development of traffic safety culture, and should be focused on all countries worldwide.


Lecture 3

Susanna Zammataro
Director General of the International Road Federation (IRF), Geneva

In the third lecture, Ms. Susanna Zammataro, Director General, International Road Federation (IRF) Switzerland, gave a lecture on pedestrian’s road-crossing behavior and the influence of culture on social information usage. She began by introducing the IRF, which is an independent NGO that has three strategic pillars around which activities are organized: knowledge and expertise, connections and advocacy. IRF is also known for producing the IRF World Road Statistics every year and running the IRF Global Road Data Warehouse.


The lecture focused on the issues relating to pedestrians. 1.3 million people are still dying on the roads, of which 54% are vulnerable road users (VRU), meaning pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists. One common point is that most pedestrian collisions occur when pedestrians are crossing the road. When looking at pedestrian safety in Japan, about 70% of all pedestrian fatalities occur while they are crossing the roads. When comparing age groups, it can be seen that roads are becoming more dangerous for seniors, with the mortality rate in those aged 75 and over increasing continually since 2010.


When looking at the risk factors, speed is at the core of the road traffic injury problem, particular when exceeding posted speed limits. Another factor is pedestrian road-crossing behavior. A better understanding of how human beings behave and underlying behavioral difference between individuals provides the basis for prevention and education.


Using a study comparing social norms in France and Japan as a reference, Ms. Zammataro highlighted that the use of social information and the probability of rule breaking are strongly correlated with the culture and the country of pedestrians. The study attempts to identify the mechanisms underlying collective road-crossing behaviors, and looks at the role of social information in decision making. When making a decision, an individual is constrained by available time, information concerned, and the risk involved. The information an individual obtains can be social or non-social. Social information use occurs through either information cascades, whereby an individual learns from observing others, or an amplification process, whereby an individual is influenced by a group.


The study found in the illegal road-crossings, i.e. done during a red light, the rate of rule breaking differed by country of origin. French and Japanese pedestrians have different behaviors when following other pedestrians. Moreover, when the information from different countries was combined, gender was found to be a key influential factor: women take less risks than men.


In conclusion, Ms. Zammataro stated that tailoring the right strategies to reduce pedestrian fatalities requires a solid understanding of the decision-making processes, meaning how pedestrians perceive and interpret the information they receive.


Lecture 4

Nicholas J. Ward
Director of the Center for Health and Safety Culture Professor of Industrial and Management Systems Engineering, Montana State University

In the fourth lecture, Professor Nicholas J. Ward, Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering, Montana State University; Director, Center for Health & Safety Culture, gave a lecture on traffic safety culture and the safe system approach for achieving vision zero. The lecture focused on culture that can exist in any social group rather than national culture.


The traffic safety system includes roads, vehicles and people. Whether or not we are an academic trying to understand the causes of traffic safety, or whether we are practitioners trying to institute strategies to improve traffic safety, one common goal is trying to change behavior of road users. It is fundamental to understand the role of road users and how their behaviors relate to traffic safety performance.


Most often it is some action or inaction by the driver which is the primary reason for a crash. If we want to make significant improvements in traffic safety, we need to address the role of the driver. To change behavior, it is also important to understand why behaviors take place. The key influences are biology, psychology, physical environmental, and the social environment. When looking at traffic safety culture’s approach to traffic safety, one is trying to change the behavior of road users as well as of traffic safety stakeholders by understanding the role culture of the groups whose behavior one is trying to change.


Professor Ward spoke about how culture has been defined through beliefs, behaviors and artifacts, and how to use culture in order to change behavior. Behavior needs to be something separate from but related to culture. Instead, culture should be defined as shared beliefs as a group. Only then can one explain and predict behaviors and artefacts from a group. Therefore, in order to change behaviors of road users, it is important to understand the shared beliefs among people who engage in that behavior. The goal then becomes how to create strategies that change the beliefs within a group so that their behaviors change.


Professor Ward also talked about common language among those addressing traffic safety culture. Traffic safety culture encompasses the shared values, assumptions and beliefs that influence road user behaviors and stakeholder actions. Safe system approach is a holistic view which provides a framework to how traffic safety is approached. Vision zero is the goal of reaching zero traffic fatalities and serious injuries. In order to understand those three concepts, it is helpful to understand how they relate to and support each other.


Using the US as an example, in order to achieve Vision Zero, three key strategies have been identified. The first is to double down on what works, investing more in strategies that data and evaluations has shown to be effective. The second is to accelerate advanced technology for road infrastructure and automated vehicles. The third is to increase the safety culture, and part of that is to grow a safe system approach to managing traffic safety. In order to get that system approach started, it is necessary to create a strong traffic safety culture that prioritizes not only traffic safety, but also recognizes the importance and necessity of working together as multiple traffic safety stakeholders.


Professor Ward ended his lecture by speaking about how to change the traffic safety culture among stakeholders and social groups. The use of social media and other forms of communication are one way of trying to change beliefs into ones that are more supportive of safe behavior. He emphasized this by highlighting two approaches to changing beliefs; using fearful messages which scare people into being safe, and other is to show concern but also hope that change is possible. The strategy of using positive, hopeful messages is more effective as it also displays the path to change and influences people’s wills to make change.


Panel Discussion

Moderator: Yuto Kitamura
Panelists: Soames Job
George Yannis
Susanna Zammataro
Nicholas J. Ward

The Moderator (Dr. Yuto Kitamura) instigated the discussion by providing an overview of the lectures from each of the panelists, and then opened the floor for discussions among the panelists and called on them to respond to questions.


Dr. Job stated that, regarding culture and the economy, certainly the economy is one of the drivers with which we manage road safety, but it is important not to retreat to a fundamental position that it is the main driver or the only driver, and therefore low-income countries will poorly manage road safety. There are low-income countries doing well in road safety and those doing badly. The economy does drive quality of vehicles and infrastructure, but partly it is about where money is spent, and because it is a circumstance that influences how people behave. If governments are not seen to be serious about road safety, then that changes cultural beliefs about who should take it seriously. It is very important to appreciate that there is a causal reaction in the other direction, where if there is bad culture and bad road safety, that will retard economic growth. The quality and effect of road safety directly effects the economy of low- and middle-income countries.

Furthermore, regarding enforcement, Dr. Job agreed with Professor Ward’s comment that people do not listen to really sever fear outcomes. This is critical as to why enforcement is necessary. This relates to optimism bias and driver over confidence. When asked, many people believe they are a better than average driver, which must be a bias. This is key to why enforcement is critical, because enforcement can change behavior very effectively using low level fear than extremely high-level fear. The other thing to highlight about enforcement is that we should not think that we have to change attitudes to then behaviors. It will work but its not the only way to do it. The other way around is also effective, namely changing behavior will cause people to change attitudes to match said behavior.

Dr. Job concluded that it is important to be careful about how enforcement is implemented, because of norms. How enforcement is discussed can encourage good cultural norms.


Professor Yannis, responding to multiple questions, stated that measuring both safety performance and safety culture are tricky issues, especially concerning performance. There are several countries in the world that face issues of misclassification problems. The real size of the problem is not clear, both in terms of number of accidents and number of fatalities. Not knowing the real figures is a fundamental issue regarding road safety performance. However, what is more striking is that looking only on crashes is not enough to understand the real problems. Crash data is only meaningful if combined with exposure data, such as crashes per kilometer driven. In addition, when we have crashes and exposure, we know the size of the problem, but the causes of the problem are revealed only when crashes are correlated with safety performance indicators (KPIs) such as behavior, infrastructure, traffic, vehicles among others. Very often in safety analysis we are going in blind. Everybody underestimates the role of speeding, including the authorities and stakeholders, because we do not have data about speeding. People believe that speeding is not as frequent as we think, but when speed is measured, we can observe an astonishingly high percentage of people driving above or well above the speed limits. Good crash data needs to be combined with exposure data and KPIs. Only with good data can we identify the causes of accidents on the road.

In response to a question about speed limits, Professor Yannis stated that the more we dig into the data, the more we find new and critical problems. Only when we understand what the underlying situations are, we can get the real picture. There are a lot of new technologies that allow us to have highly useful data. Highlighting the importance of behavior change during the COVID crisis, it can be seen that more people base decisions on data than before. This is a change in culture that can also be applied into road safety. If we start measuring safety, perceptions change at all levels, bringing real change. Data is the driver for traffic safety culture change. Only by demonstrating a serious effort and good data we can demonstrate the importance of the problem.


Moderator ask the remaining two panelists about the understanding cultural context. How can one make a rational judgement as it depends on a cultural context? Is there always only one way to spread a message?


In response, Ms. Zammataro highlighted elements that bring forward the issue of culture. The value of road safety and the respect for the rules is very embedded in culture. Countries like Japan and Switzerland have a social pressure to obey the rules, even when you are alone. How values become embedded in the culture revolves around education and the community. We have seen in many different problems in remote areas that the community wields importance and influence. The other element is enforcement, and here Ms. Zammataro strongly agreed with Dr. Job on the concept of enforcement as a way to change culture. If resources are not invested, then enforcement tends to be lost. Ms. Zammataro also agreed with Dr. Job that the way enforcement is talked about is important.


Responding to the moderator’s question, Professor Ward gave another perspective on the role of enforcement and how one communicates about enforcement, which is how one communicates about the laws being enforced. Showing that laws were the choice of people (rather than imposed by government) demonstrates the normative expectations of the community, which then gives weight to those laws when they are enforced.

Regarding whether a particular strategy will work in every culture or just one culture, a critical aspect of understanding traffic safety culture is that there is not a one size fits all solution. Applying traffic safety culture has to be specific to the culture you are looking at. A culture-based strategy that focusses on beliefs and values has to be specific to that culture, and there may also need to be a focus on specific demographics and groups whose behavior one is trying to change and take the extra effort of understanding what those beliefs are. Whatever actions are taken need to be based on an actual understanding of the true culture of the group in question and not assumptions about that culture.

In addition, responding to a question about what countries can do to change traffic safety culture when they have limited resources, Professor Ward agreed with Ms. Zammataro that it is about communities. Traffic safety culture is something every group can do. It is something people can do as a social group. Whenever there is a group that has a culture, it is important to do something as a group to affect traffic safety. An important mindset is to consider how can people work together to make each other safer. There are things that can be done in small groups, not just relying on the government, it’s about helping each other and protecting each other.


Responding to questions from the participants on enforcement or education and which is more effective, Dr. Job responded that people do not resort to enforcement until they have tried education and awareness raising. Education will get some level of improvement, but enforcement will get a lot more. One of the reasons is that road safety problems are not caused by a lack of knowledge. Education fixes a lack of knowledge, but the problem is a lack of motivation. Failures on the road are often caused by motivational problems. We should really think about how to change motivations. Dr. Job also stated that it is vital to understand target audiences. Understanding the breadth of the problem and how much of the community wants the changes will reveal how enforcement should work. Dr. Job also mentioned that the media does not show a clear image of this. It is important for the majority to make more of an effort to make changes.


Responding to the same subject, Professor Yannis clarified that, when comparing enforcement and education, one must take into account that enforcement has a direct and important effect, but that effect is temporary. When enforcement is there, there is compliance. When there is no enforcement, compliance goes away. Enforcement is efficient but still has to be systematic. In terms of effectiveness of enforcement, not only does it change behavior, but most importantly, when it is systematically, it is the best campaign because it passes the message that someone is there to protect you and gives the right importance to the problem. When there are rules but no enforcement, the message is wrong, e.g the rules do not worth implementing. It is a question of having systematic enforcement, such as frequent, low fines, in order to demonstrate the importance of the problem through the continuous presence of enforcement where there are offenses.

Regarding education, Professor Yannis stated that education has a long-term and solid effect. If we manage to change the culture, then we can progress. The question then becomes where education should take place, and the best education is through the paradigm of parents that children future drivers imitate. Therefore, education should concern both the parents and the children.

Whatever we do, measuring is the key. We have to measure culture, performance, link culture and performance with specific analyses, see what works best, and measure the programs and the measures (e.g. measuring the enforcement level) and adopt successful practices.


Responding to a question about big crowds in cities, Ms. Zammataro answered that cascade and amplification processes are amplified in those cases: the big crowd gives a sense of “protection” and so people tend to take more risks and rely more on social information. That we know can have very negative consequences in terms of safety. The crowd gives a false sense of protection.

Responding to a question about privacy and camera, Ms. Zammataro stated her opinion that as most people use mobile phones, privacy is gone already, so it’s a false debate. The real issue being that of the high cost usually associated with installing and operating the system. That may function as a deterrent for the authorities for not implementing those enforcement options rather than protection of privacy. It is a complex system to put in place as it requires often changes to the law and resources to run the system efficiently.

Ms. Zammataro agreed with Dr. Jobs on the importance of community being vocal. Groups should not be discouraged, they have to be vocal about enforcement. It’s thanks to local communities being vocal that we have seen reduction of speed limits to 30km/h in many urban areas. The motivation for change is also very important and not just enforcement. The most successful campaigns have been those who make people touch with hand the human drama that road crashes create – by having them talk to survivors of accidents or people who have lost family members in road crashes.


In response to a question on autonomous driving, Professor Ward stated that, in the US, it has been recognized that automation does have a role for Vision Zero, but it is not seen as the only solution. It is one of the pillars that can be used to get to zero. In relation to traffic safety culture, when talking about fully automated vehicles, it will take a very long time for them to be ubiquitous, so it is not a quick solution. It is interesting to speculate how automated vehicles will contribute to traffic safety culture when there is still a mix with manual and automated vehicles. Indeed, what culture will automated vehicles be programed with – will it be, consistent with the local culture? It is also worth speculating whether one can actually use automated vehicles to model the safe behavior and create a new perceived norm for safety.

Responding to a question of attitudes in relation to traffic safety culture, Professor Ward agreed with Dr. Jobs that attitudes do lead to behavior, but the reverse is also true under certain conditions. When thinking about traffic safety culture, we need to go broader than just attitudes. There are more key concepts other than attitude that influence decision making. One is norms, another is perceived behavioral control, and prototype image, which is how people think of those who normally do the behavior. It is important to recognize the role of all these beliefs, not just attitudes.


The moderator thanked each of the panelists for their responses to the questions, and stated that the topics discussed in today’s symposium showed that there is more room for consideration and future discussions.


Closing Address

Satoshi Kamada
Executive Director, IATSS

Lastly, Mr. Satoshi Kamada, IATSS Executive Director, gave a closing address.

Mr. Kamada thanked the panelists for their contributions and the participants for joining in the sixth GIFTS symposium today.


He stated that the discussions contained many clues to thinking about global road safety. IATSS plans to proceed to more concrete discussions based on today’s symposium, and intends to develop those discussions into road safety initiatives, especially in developing countries. IATSS was founded 46 years ago and has developed a wide range of activities from a high standpoint aiming for an ideal transportation society, without being bound by the realm of cars. It is not a big organization and there may be limits, but IATSS is working on activities with a strong will to contribute to society through international and transdisciplinary approaches.


Mr. Kamada stated his desire to continue discussions like today’s symposium further on, and hoped to develop collaborations with various researchers and related organizations.

Finally, Mr. Kamada thanked all those who cooperated in holding the symposium.

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