Peer Influence and Perceptions of Safety

There is the built environment in which we live and there is the way we perceive the built environment. Traffic safety professionals rely primarily on crash data and injury reports to assess the safety of travelers in an area, but these data sources do not provide the whole story about people’s perceptions of safety within a space.
Aqshems Nichols and Jill F. Cooper
May 2, 2022

New research brief explores the impacts of pluralistic ignorance on traffic safety perceptions

At the heart of active transportation systems are the people that use them. In a new research brief, Peer Influence and Perceptions of Safety, UC Berkeley SafeTREC's Graduate Student Researcher Aqshems Nichols and Co-Director Jill F. Cooper discuss the importance of considering perceptions in traffic safety analyses and the potential for investigating how a psychological phenomenon known as pluralistic ignorance could be shaping those perceptions. 

Pluralistic ignorance is a "psychological phenomenon where people’s inaccurate conclusions about their peers’ opinions on traffic safety issues alters their own thinking patterns, behavior, and overall receptiveness towards initiatives intended to improve traffic safety." 

An overview of two case studies from the psychology literature is presented in the brief to facilitate this discussion on the importance of perceptions in traffic safety and how studying pluralistic ignorance could possibly lead to better traffic safety outcomes for pedestrians and bicyclists. Read the full brief.

First page of the new research brief on perceptions of safety and peer influence

Funding for this program was provided by a grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).