Psychosocial factors contributing to motorcyclists' intended riding style : an application of an extended version of the theory of planned behaviour

Tunnicliff, Deborah Josephine (2006) Psychosocial factors contributing to motorcyclists' intended riding style : an application of an extended version of the theory of planned behaviour. Masters by Research thesis, Queensland University of Technology.


Motorcycle riding is rapidly increasing in popularity in Australia, attracting a much wider demographic of people than in decades past. Unfortunately, whilst the overall road toll in Australia has generally been reducing, the proportion of motorcycle-related fatalities has been rising in recent years. Further, the proportion of motorcycle-related fatalities in Australia is unacceptably high compared to other OECD countries. To reduce motorcycle-related fatalities on Australian roads, there is an urgent need to consider motorcyclists as distinct from other road users. This program of research facilitates the understanding of safety issues from a motorcyclist perspective and provides important information on factors influencing safe and unsafe rider intentions and behaviour.-----

Study 1 explored what motorcyclists thought about the issues relevant to safety and to risk-taking behaviour on a motorcycle. The aim of this study was to develop a better understanding of the factors which influence on-road riding behaviour. Using the theory of planned behaviour (TPB), identity theory, social identity theory, and items based on moral norm and causal attribution theory, a set of questions was developed to guide focus group discussions with riders, police, rider trainers, and an advocacy group for motorcycle safety. Of the 43 participants in this study, only two were not motorcycle riders. This exploratory process revealed six common behaviours that most motorcyclists agreed were essential to safety or which related directly to riskier riding.-----

Two behaviours were identified as being essential to rider safety by participants. The first was the necessity of being able to handle the motorcycle proficiently and skilfully. The second related to the need for riders to maintain a high level of concentration whilst riding and to stay aware of the changing road environment.-----

The safety or riskiness of two other behaviours mentioned became a matter of debate amongst participants. First, some riders said that obeying the road rules was essential to their safety, whilst others reported that it was often necessary to break the road rules in order to stay safe. Second, the definition of what constituted 'riding whilst impaired' differed amongst riders. Most riders agreed that 'drinking and riding' was dangerous. However, for some, even one alcoholic drink before riding was considered dangerous, whilst others would ride after drinking provided they did not consider themselves to be over the legal BAC limit. Some riders stated that riding when they were tired was dangerous; however, fatigue was not considered a serious safety issue for many participants.-----

Two further behaviours identified by participants were often associated with their accounts of crash involvement, yet not seen as intrinsically 'unsafe' by most riders. The first of these was the concept of 'pushing your limits'. Most riders interviewed appeared to enjoy pushing the limits of their ability on a motorcycle. Whilst agreeing that pushing the limits too far was dangerous, pushing them to a point that tested a rider's abilities was often reported to facilitate safety as this process developed a rider's skill. The second behaviour that was often mentioned in connection with crashes was extreme riding (e.g., performing stunts and riding at extreme speeds). The act of perfecting a stunt was often reported to result in the crashing of the motorcycle; although, these crashes were usually accepted as a normal part of the learning process. Once perfected, performing stunts did not appear to be considered an intrinsically unsafe behaviour; unless performed in traffic or other unpredictable situations. A sizable minority of both male and female participants reported riding at extreme speeds. These riders often argued that they could ride extremely fast, safely, on public roads provided certain conditions were met (e.g., good visibility, weather, road, and motorcycle maintenance).-----

Study 2 [n = 229] operationalised the six behaviours discussed above into three 'safer' behavioural intentions (i.e., handle the motorcycle skilfully, maintain 100% awareness, not ride impaired) and three 'riskier' intentions (i.e., bend road rules, push the limits, perform stunts or ride at extreme speeds). A seventh item was added to provide a global measure of a rider's intention to ride safely. Multiple regression analyses were then performed to test the predictive utility of the TPB compared with several augmented models. The additional constructs used to augment the TPB included a specific subjective norm and group norm which related to the people a person rides with, self identity, sensation seeking, aggression as well as age, gender and riding exposure. The multiple regression analysis demonstrated that a greater proportion of variance could be explained in the case of the riskier riding intentions [R2 ranging from 57% - 66%] than the safer riding intentions [R2 ranging from 22% - 36%]. Therefore, this type of theoretical model may be better suited to investigating deliberate risk-taking intentions rather than an overall model of rider behaviour which includes errors and lapses or intentions to ride safely.-----

In the final analyses, perceived behavioural control (PBC) proved to be a significant predictor of all four intentions towards the safer behaviours, and also towards intentions to "push my limits". Attitude was a significant predictor of the three riskier intentions. Although the standard subjective norm variable performed weakly, as it was only predictive of one intention, the specific subjective norm (i.e., the people that someone rides with) emerged as a significant predictor of four of the seven intention items and group norm was predictive of an additional intention item. This result indicates that the other people a person rides with may have a marked effect on behavioural intentions. Sensation seeking was found to be significantly related to four intentions, self identification as a safe or risky rider related to two intentions and a propensity for aggression was only significantly predictive of one intention.-----

Study 2 did not find a significant relationship between the seven intentions and past crash history. However, correlational analyses found that people who had reported being involved in a serious crash in the past two years reported less PBC over their ability to ride as safely as possible and to perform stunts and/or ride at extreme speeds.-----

In conclusion, this program of research provided insight into the issues riders feel are important to their safety, and has facilitated a greater understanding of the complexity of influences that impact on riding intentions and behaviour. The study also provided support for extending the traditional TPB model to include other measures of social influence, as well as person-related factors such as sensation seeking. The fact that PBC emerged as a predictor of five of the seven intentions suggests that there may be scope to enhance existing training practices to better address both safe and risky riding intentions. The influence of other riders also emerged as a strong influence on intentions, suggesting that strategies to address rider behaviour within the wider social context of riding may be a useful addition to future motorcycle safety or rider training initiatives. The social dynamics of motorcycle riding, within the context of road safety, is an area that clearly requires more investigation. Research into this area may provide the key to developing new approaches to promoting motorcycle safety which effectively integrate both the psychological and sociological aspects of riding; therefore, better reflecting the real challenges facing many riders on Australian roads today.

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ID Code: 16217
Item Type: QUT Thesis (Masters by Research)
Supervisor: Watson, Barry & White, Katherine
Keywords: motorcycle, crashes, risk, behaviour, road safety, theory of planned behaviour, social identity theory, identity theory, sensation seeking, aggression
Divisions: Current > Research Centres > Centre for Accident Research & Road Safety - Qld (CARRS-Q)
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Health
Current > Institutes > Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation
Current > Schools > School of Psychology & Counselling
Department: Faculty of Health
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2006 Deborah Josephine Tunnicliff
Deposited On: 03 Dec 2008 03:58
Last Modified: 28 Oct 2011 19:44

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