Objective and methodology
ESRA (E-Survey of Road users’ Attitudes) is a joint initiative of road safety institutes, research centres, public services, and private sponsors from all over the world. The aim is to collect and analyse comparable data on road safety performance, in particular road safety culture and behaviour of road users. The ESRA data are used as a basis for a large set of road safety indicators. These provide scientific evidence for policy making at national and international levels.
Vias institute in Brussels (Belgium) initiated and coordinates ESRA, in cooperation with eleven core group partners (BASt, BFU, CTL, IATSS, IFSTTAR, ITS, KFV, NTUA, PRP, SWOV, TIRF). At the heart of ESRA is a jointly developed questionnaire survey, which is translated into national language versions. The themes covered include self-declared behaviour, attitudes and opinions on unsafe traffic behaviour, enforcement experiences and support for policy measures. The survey addresses different road safety topics (e.g. driving under the influence of alcohol, drugs and medicines, speeding, distraction) and targets car occupants, motorcycle and moped drivers, cyclists and pedestrians.
The present report is based on the second edition of this global survey, which was conducted in 2018 (ESRA2_2018). In total this survey collected data from more than 35.000 road users across 32 countries. An overview of the ESRA initiative and the project-results is available on: www.esranet.eu.
This thematic ESRA report on traffic enforcement describes the involvement in traffic violations by different road user groups, the experience with traffic checks, the perceived likelihood of enforcement checks on alcohol and drugs, and the opinions on strictness of enforcement and sanctions. It includes comparisons amongst the 32 participating countries as well as results in relation to age and gender. Changes over time - between 2015 (ESRA1) and 2018 (ESRA2) - were looked at for self-reported experience with alcohol and drug checks and for involvement in drinking and driving, speeding and reading text or emailing while driving. More advanced analysis was undertaken to understand the variables that are associated with driving under the influence of alcohol and driving under the influence of drugs.
Below we provide a summary of main results without pretence at complete coverage of results. The summary is mostly limited to results at world-wide regional level. The complete results per question, continent and country are reported in Chapter 3 and the Appendices 3 to 7.
Prevalence of the risky self-declared traffic behaviour
- In all four continents the most frequently reported traffic violations are talking on hand held phone and speeding inside urban areas, speeding on main roads outside urban areas and speeding on motorways with between 40% and 75% of road users admitting to these traffic violations.
- Driving after drinking alcohol is being reported by one in five drivers in Europe, USA and Africa and by one in seven drivers in AsiaOceania.
- Concerning drinking and driving, it seems that this risky behaviour has been reduced over time; the EU average has decreased from 31% to 18% and in a number of countries such as Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Netherlands, Spain and United Kingdom substantial reductions in self-declared drinking and driving have occurred.
- The use of a smartphone while driving for calling, reading email or texting has become common behaviour in many countries. The most distracting variant of phone use while driving is reading an email or texting a message which requires that sight is averted from the roadway. In African countries percentages for this risky behaviour range between 37% and 52%. In Europe this behaviour is somewhat less frequent with percentages varying between 14% and 37%, with Austrian, Finnish, Serbian, and Portuguese drivers having percentages near 36%.
- The unsafe transport of children is frequent in AsiaOceania and Africa (> 40%), and less frequent in Europe and USA (< 15%).
- The age differences in risky behaviour were nearly all significant in all four regions with younger drivers reporting to engage more in risky driving behaviour than older drivers with effect sizes mostly varying between small to medium.
- In three regions - Europe, North America and Africa - for nearly all risky behaviours males reported to engage more frequently in the behaviour than females; most often the gender differences were quite small.
Reported traffic violations by other road user groups
Moped riders and motorcyclists:
- In all four regions, nearly half of all moped riders and motorcyclists report to drive faster than the speed limits on roads outside of built-up areas.
- Riding without a helmet - which is not a violation in many ESRA2 countries - is reported by nearly a half of riders in Africa and AsiaOceania, by two in five riders in North America and by one in four riders in Europe.
- Younger moped riders and motorcycle riders report more frequently to engage in each of the four risky behaviours (drinking and riding, speeding outside built-up areas, riding without helmet and reading text/email or checking social media during riding). Nearly all effect sizes are medium to large.
- In all four regions, cycling after having drunk perhaps too much alcohol is reported by one in six cyclists.
- Cyclists in AsiaOceania and Africa more frequently report to read a text message or check social media while cycling (about one in three), to cycle wearing head phones (two in five to about half), and to cycle on road next to the cycle lane (slightly over half) than cyclists in Europe and North America.
- Younger cyclists reported more frequent risky cycling behaviour than older cyclists in three regions with effect sizes mostly between medium to large.
- The behaviours that may increase risk for pedestrians, phone use, head phone use, red light running, crossing road at other place than pedestrian crossing, are frequently reported by pedestrians in all four regions (percentages mostly ranging between 40% and 75%).
- In all regions younger pedestrians report more frequently to engage in risky pedestrian behaviour (listening to music; reading text/checking social media; red light running; crossing nearby pedestrian crossing) than older pedestrians, with effect sizes mostly ranging from medium to large.
- In all regions younger pedestrians report more frequently to engage in risky pedestrian behaviour.
Drivers’ experience of being checked for alcohol or drugs in traffic
- In all regions being checked in traffic for alcohol occurs more frequently than being checked for drugs, with the highest percentages of alcohol checks being reported in AsiaOceania (32%) and the lowest in North America (3%), and Europe (18%) and Africa (16%) falling in between.
- For checks on drugged driving the highest percentages are being reported in AsiaOceania and Africa (both 10%), and low percentages in Europe (4%) and North America (2%).
- In all four regions male drivers tend to report more experience with being checked for using alcohol than female drivers, but statistical effect sizes were consistently small. With the exception of drivers in AsiaOceania, male drivers also tended to report more experience with being checked for the use of drugs than female drivers. The effect sizes were again small.
- In all regions younger drivers tended to report higher likelihood of being checked than older drivers, with effect sizes ranging from small to medium.
Perceived likelihood of being checked
- In all four regions, the reported likelihood of being checked is most frequent for speeding violations (29% to 45% of drivers reporting this to be likely) and for seat belt violations (24% to 44% of drivers reporting this likely).
- Drivers in African countries report most often that they consider it likely to be checked in traffic (percentages ranging from 23% to 45%) and drivers in North America report this the least often (percentages ranging from 10% to 29%).
- Male drivers tend to report a higher likelihood of being checked for traffic violations than female drivers, but statistical effect sizes are consistently small.
- Age differences were consistent. In all regions younger drivers tended to report higher likelihood of being checked than older drivers, with effect sizes ranging from small to medium.
Opinions on strictness of enforcement
- Worldwide, in nearly all surveyed countries there is a majority support among road users (> 60%) for a stricter approach to drinking and driving in the sense of stricter penalties and more traffic checks.
- In nearly all surveyed countries there is a clear majority support for stricter approach to phone use while driving (65%-95%).
- On the questions on strictness of sanctions and enforcement female road users tend to report a somewhat stronger preference for strict sanctions and more enforcement than male road users, but the statistical effect sizes are small.
- Older road users were more in favour of strict sanctions for drinking and driving, speeding and use of handheld mobile phone than younger road users with effect sizes ranging from small to medium.
Changes over time
Answers on violation behaviour of car drivers were compared between ESRA1 and ESRA2. The operational definition of car drivers slightly changed between ESRA1 and ESRA2. In view of this it cannot be excluded that the differences reported below may be partly due to slightly differing samples of ESRA1 and ESRA2.
- Concerning drinking and driving, it seems that this risky behaviour has been reduced over time; the EU average has decreased from 31% to 18% and in a number of countries such as Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Netherlands, Spain and the United Kingdom substantial reductions in self-declared drinking and driving have occurred.
- Concerning speeding outside built-up areas, it seems that this may have increased somewhat over time.
- Reading a text or email while driving seems to have slightly reduced overall, with large reductions in some countries (Italy, Finland, Greece, Netherlands, Sweden). However, these data should not be taken at face value since there is evidence that at least for one of these countries (the Netherlands) the ESRA2 reports of less email reading and/or texting seems not be supported by actual observations of phone use in traffic.
Variables associated with driving under influence of alcohol or drugs
- The odds of engaging in driving when one may have been drinking more than the legal alcohol limit in the past thirty days significantly increase when people are getting older, when they find this behaviour to be more socially and personally acceptable, when they have beliefs that their friends would drive with alcohol, that one can safely drink and drive for short trips, when they trust their own ability to drive with alcohol, when they often drive after drinking alcohol, when they find penalties too severe, when they perceive a higher likelihood of alcohol checks in traffic and when they have actually been checked for drinking and driving.
- On the other hand, the odds of engaging in drinking and driving in the past thirty days significantly are significantly lower when riders are female, when they believe that alcohol is a more frequent cause of accidents, when they believe more that alcohol rules are insufficiently checked and when they are more supportive of interlock measures for alcohol offenders and zero tolerance policy for drinking and driving.
- The odds of engaging in driving under the influence of drugs are lower for older drivers, for female drivers (versus male) and for drivers who perceive driving under influence as frequent accident cause (versus those who perceive this less so). The odds of engaging in driving under the influence of drugs were increased when drugged driving is more socially and personally acceptable, and when the perceived likelihood of a drug check is higher and there is more experience with drug enforcement.
- The positive relationship between odds of engaging in driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs and higher perceived likelihood of a control and being checked for driving under the influence (DUI) can be explained by various processes. It can be assumed that, first, drivers who use drugs do so at times and near locations where police may focus enforcement efforts, that, second, these drivers are more motivated to look for and notice police checks, and third, that these drivers may show driving behaviour that alerts the police to their vehicle.
- Drinking and driving and speeding should remain the top priorities for traffic enforcement on four continents.
- The enforcement of seat belt use and safe transport of children is especially important in African and AsiaOceanic countries.
- A new challenge for traffic enforcement worldwide is the frequent use of (handheld) smartphone by drivers, cyclists and pedestrians.
- New legislation on distraction in traffic and on drugs in traffic, or the possible revision of current legislation should take into account traffic policing practices in order to facilitate as much as possible traffic enforcement operations in these areas.
- In particular countries driving under the influence of drugs is a widespread and rising problem that needs focused attention in terms of health prevention, communication and traffic enforcement.
- The fairly high reported violation rates of road users other than drivers - moped riders, motorcyclists, cyclists and pedestrians - indicates that these groups should not be ignored in road infrastructure (planning), traffic education, or in traffic enforcement planning. Being both vulnerable and engaging in risky behaviour may make motorcyclists, moped riders and cyclists, ideal target groups for special road safety campaigns or enforcement actions. Even though pedestrians are likely not a high risk group they should not be completely ignored when thinking about campaigns and enforcement.
The ESRA initiative has demonstrated the feasibility and the added value of joint data collection on road safety performance by partner organizations all over the world. The intention is to repeat this initiative on a triennial basis, retaining a core set of questions in every wave. In this way, ESRA produces consistent and comparable road safety performance indicators that can serve as an input for national road safety policies and for international monitoring systems on road safety performance.