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Edited by J P Rothe. (Pp 343.) University of Alberta Press, Edmonton, 2002. ISBN 0-88864- 370-5.
This book arose from the multidisciplinary “Mission Possible Traffic-Safety Conference, Traffic Safety Summit '98”. The aim of the conference was to challenge traditional thinking and roles in traffic safety and the book is intended to continue this process. This is not just another collection of submitted papers presented at a conference, but rather invited articles on relevant, creative, and non-traditional topics written specifically for the book and designed to continue the discussion and debate that started at the conference.
The 20 chapters are divided into three parts covering the personal, institutional, and technical aspects of driving. Each chapter is written by a different expert, most authors are Canadian and a couple are from the USA. Each chapter underwent critical peer review.
The introductory chapter is on cybernetics, a topic I am not familiar with. Nevertheless, the framework and application to traffic safety was clear and I found it useful. Chapters in the personal section put driving in a social context. Contributors wrote from professional backgrounds in mental and physical health, social, and cultural analysis. Each chapter covers a different aspect of cognitive and behavioural influence on driving.
Section two covers institutional systems, the law, the economy, the media, and education. Among the topics is the conflict of traffic safety and business economics, one of the several aspects of road safety that are not usually included in academic journals. Voluntary organisations and their influence on the traffic related court system are also included.
In the third section, on technical aspects of driving, some interesting questions are asked. For example, if we know so much and if we have the technology to control some unsafe aspects of driving, why is driving not safer? The fact is that no-one drives perfectly all of the time, so that perhaps the aim is to cater for the imperfect driver, so that our mistakes are not necessarily fatal.
I enjoyed reading the articles and pondering the mix of culture, economics, politics, and social behaviour that is involved in driving. I found my thinking extended beyond the usual topics of road-user behaviour, medical outcomes, and road engineering. The thorough reference list was helpful, although the omission of an index was a disappointment.
Anyone with an interest in traffic safety should find the alternative ideas in this book interesting and stimulating.