The role of cultural beliefs in contributing to risky road use behaviour in Pakistan

Kayani, Ahsan, King, Mark J., & Fleiter, Judy J. (2011) The role of cultural beliefs in contributing to risky road use behaviour in Pakistan. In 10th National Conference on Injury Prevention and Safety Promotion, 2-4 November 2011, Brisbane Convention & Exbihition Centre, Brisbane, QLD. (Unpublished)


Background Pakistan has the highest population rate of road fatalities in South Asia (25.3 fatalities per 100,000 people: Global Status Report on Road Safety, WHO 2009). Along with road environment and vehicle factors, human factors make a substantial contribution to traffic safety in Pakistan. Beliefs about road crash causation and prevention have been demonstrated to contribute to risky road use behaviour and resistance to preventive measures in a handful of other developing countries, but has not been explored in Pakistan. In particular, fatalism (whether based on religion, other cultural beliefs or experience) has been highlighted as a barrier to achieving changes in attitudes and behaviour.

Aims The research reported here aimed (i) to explore perceptions of road crash causation among policy makers, police officers, professional drivers and car drivers in Pakistan; (ii) to identify how cultural and religious beliefs influence road use behaviour in Pakistan; and (iii) to understand how fatalistic beliefs may work as obstacles to road safety interventions.

Methods In-depth interviews were conducted by the primary author (mostly in Urdu) in Lahore, Rawalpindi and Islamabad with 12 professional drivers (taxi, bus and truck), 4 car drivers, 6 police officers, 4 policy makers and 2 religious orators. All but two were Muslim, two were female, and they were drawn from a wide range of ages (24 to 60) and educational backgrounds. The interviews were taped and transcribed, then translated into English and analysed for themes related to the aims.

Results Fatalism emerged as a pervasive belief utilised to justify risky road use behaviour and to resist messages about preventive measures. There was a strong religious underpinning to the statement of fatalistic beliefs (this reflects popular conceptions of Islam rather than scholarly interpretations), but also an overlap with superstitious beliefs which have longer-standing roots in Pakistani culture. These beliefs were not limited to people of poor educational background or position. A particular issue which was explored in more detail was the way in which these beliefs and their interpretation within Pakistani society contributed to poor police reporting of crashes.

Discussion and conclusions The pervasive nature of fatalistic beliefs in Pakistan affects road user behaviour by supporting continued risk taking behaviour on the road, and by interfering with public health messages about behaviours which would reduce the risk of traffic crashes. The widespread influence of these beliefs on the ways that people respond to traffic crashes and the death of family members contribute to low crash reporting rates and to a system which is difficult to change. The promotion of an evidence-based approach to road user behaviour is recommended, along with improved professional education for police and policy makers.

Impact and interest:

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ID Code: 50438
Item Type: Conference Item (Presentation)
Refereed: No
Keywords: Risky road use behaviour, Crash causation and prevention, Islamic beliefs
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > PSYCHOLOGY AND COGNITIVE SCIENCES (170000)
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
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2011 The Authors
Deposited On: 20 May 2012 22:39
Last Modified: 20 May 2012 22:39

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