The consistency of crash involvement recall across time

Freeman, James E., af Wåhlberg, Anders, Watson, Barry C., Barraclough, Peter, Davey, Jeremy D., & McMaster, Mitchell (2013) The consistency of crash involvement recall across time. In Dorn, Lisa & Sullman, Mark (Eds.) Driver Behaviour and Training, Ashgate, University of Helsinki, Helsinki.

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Road safety researchers rely heavily on self-report data to explore the aetiology of crash risk. However, researchers consistently acknowledge a range of limitations associated with this methodological approach (e.g., self-report bias), which has been hypothesised to reduce the predictive efficacy of scales. Although well researched in other areas, one important factor often neglected in road safety studies is the fallibility of human memory. Given accurate recall is a key assumption in many studies, the validity and consistency of self-report data warrants investigation. The aim of the current study was to examine the consistency of self-report data of crash history and details of the most recent reported crash on two separate occasions.

Materials & Method

A repeated measures design was utilised to examine the self-reported crash involvement history of 214 general motorists over a two month period.


A number of interesting discrepancies were noted in relation to number of lifetime crashes reported by the participants and the descriptions of their most recent crash across the two occasions. Of the 214 participants who reported having been involved in a crash, 35 (22.3%) reported a lower number of lifetime crashes as Time 2, than at Time 1. Of the 88 drivers who reported no change in number of lifetime crashes, 10 (11.4%) described a different most recent crash. Additionally, of the 34 reporting an increase in the number of lifetime crashes, 29 (85.3%) of these described the same crash on both occasions. Assessed as a whole, at least 47.1% of participants made a confirmed mistake at Time 1 or Time 2.


These results raise some doubt in regard to the accuracy of memory recall across time. Given that self-reported crash involvement is the predominant dependent variable used in the majority of road safety research, this issue warrants further investigation. Replication of the study with a larger sample size that includes multiple recall periods would enhance understanding into the significance of this issue for road safety methodology.

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ID Code: 63690
Item Type: Conference Paper
Refereed: Yes
Keywords: crashes, recall, memory, consistency
ISBN: 9781472414717
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > PSYCHOLOGY AND COGNITIVE SCIENCES (170000) > PSYCHOLOGY (170100) > Psychology not elsewhere classified (170199)
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 2013 Ashgate Publishing
Deposited On: 05 Nov 2013 00:41
Last Modified: 06 Nov 2013 16:45

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