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Human factors 2

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There are demographic differences in crash rates. For example, although young people tend to have good reaction times, disproportionately more young male drivers feature in collisions, with researchers observing that many exhibit behaviors and attitudes to risk that can place them in more hazardous situations than other road users. This is reflected by actuaries when they set insurance rates for different age groups, partly based on their age, sex, and choice of vehicle. Older drivers with slower reactions might be expected to be involved in more collisions, but this has not been the case as they tend to drive less and, apparently, more cautiously. Attempts to impose traffic policies can be complicated by local circumstances and driver behavior. In 1969 Leeming warned that there is a balance to be struck when "improving" the safety of a road:

Conversely, a location that does not look dangerous may have a high crash frequency. This is, in part, because if drivers perceive a location as hazardous, they take more care. Collisions may be more likely to happen when hazardous road or traffic conditions are not obvious at a glance, or where the conditions are too complicated for the limited human machine to perceive and react in the time and distance available. High incidence of crashes is not indicative of high injury risk. Crashes are common in areas of high vehicle congestion, but fatal crashes occur disproportionately on rural roads at night when traffic is relatively light.

This phenomenon has been observed in risk compensation research, where the predicted reductions in collision rates have not occurred after legislative or technical changes. One study observed that the introduction of improved brakes resulted in more aggressive driving,  and another argued that compulsory seat belt laws have not been accompanied by a clearly attributed fall in overall fatalities. Most claims of risk compensation offsetting the effects of vehicle regulation and belt use laws have been discredited by research using more refined data.

In the 1990s, Hans Monderman's studies of driver behavior led him to the realization that signs and regulations had an adverse effect on a driver's ability to interact safely with other road users. Monderman developed shared space principles, rooted in the principles of the woonerven of the 1970s. He concluded that the removal of highway clutter, while allowing drivers and other road users to mingle with equal priority, could help drivers recognize environmental clues. They relied on their cognitive skills alone, reducing traffic speeds radically and resulting in lower levels of road casualties and lower levels of congestion.

Some crashes are intended; staged crashes, for example, involve at least one party who hopes to crash a vehicle in order to submit lucrative claims to an insurance company. In the United States during the 1990s, criminals recruited Latin immigrants to deliberately crash cars, usually by cutting in front of another car and slamming on the brakes. It was an illegal and risky job, and they were typically paid only $100. Jose Luis Lopez Perez, a staged crash driver, died after one such maneuver, leading to an investigation that uncovered the increasing frequency of this type of crash.

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