Traffic and transport risks: the citizens' perceptions (English summary)

Citizens assess the risks associated with various transport modes differently than the actual risk. Various subjective factors play a role in such assessments. Experts meanwhile base their findings on objective data, such as the numbers of accidents and victims. Consequently, risk levels, as established by experts, do not always agree with how people perceive risks.

This report is available in Dutch.

Underestimating the degree of risk can lead to people behaving in dangerous, unsafe ways. Conversely, if people overestimate risk, they might for example become unduly concerned about perceived risk and/or limit their activities accordingly. In instances where risks are underestimated, the government is responsible for raising people’s awareness of the actual risks involved. If citizens overestimate risks, the government must provide perspective. In addition, it is vital to account for the underlying factors that influence people’s risk perceptions. If citizens assess risk levels differently than the experts, this can lead to less support for implementation or non-implementation of safety regulations. Supporting policy is then required.

These conclusion stems from the KiM Netherlands Institute for Transport Policy Analysis' research of citizen's risk perceptions, conducted at the request of the Transport and Water Management Inspectorate. When developing supervisory measures based on compliance with established laws and regulations, the Inspectorate not only proceeds based on objective risks but also aims to increasingly consider the ways in which citizens perceive the risks associated with various transport modes.
In this research, KiM identifies which factors determine citizens’ risk perceptions, which (future) developments will influence risk perceptions, and what options the Inspectorate has for including the risk perception and acceptance when developing its supervisory measures.