Report numberRA-2006-100
TitleKnowledge of traffic laws: Influencing factors and effects on traffic safety
SubtitleCase study of the city of Landen
AuthorsJan Vanrie
Anne Baron
Erik Nuyts
Published byPolicy Research Centre for Traffic Safety 2002-2006
Number of pages44
Document languageDutch
Work packageOther: Behaviour

People entering the traffic system are presumed to have a solid knowledge of the existing laws and regulations. However, road users differ on many aspects, so it is to be expected that they will also differ on the amount of ready knowledge they have on this topic. The aim of the present report is to investigate the overall level of theoretical knowledge of ordinary road users, and to identify influencing factors and potential links with traffic safety.


Personal information and information regarding traffic behaviour and traffic history were collected from a sample of 476 road users from the city of Landen, and all participants were tested on their theoretical knowledge of the formal rules of traffic. Data were analysed through univariate analysis, multiple logistic regression, and path analyses to establish the overall level of knowledge, to identify relevant factors and to determine the connection between knowledge and indicators of traffic safety.


The main finding with respect to knowledge per se is that the overall level is very low (3.8% pass the test, overall mean is 56%). Knowledge is influenced by sociodemographic factors (sex, level of education, and age), traffic education (having obtained a drivers license or not and the type of license), and certain aspects of traffic behaviour (exposure). Regarding the connection between knowledge and indices of unsafe traffic behaviour (at-fault accidents, faultless accidents, traffic citations) two conclusions can be drawn. First, the connection is fairly weak: only for the accidents in which the person was not at fault a reliable link with the test score is found. Secondly, the correlation between knowledge and unsafe traffic behaviour is in fact positive: more knowledge is associated with more faultless accidents. Some possible explanations for these phenomena are put forward. Finally, some conclusions and policy recommendations are formulated.

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The Policy Research Centre for Traffic Safety carries out policy relevant scientific research under the authority of the Flemish Government. The Centre is the result of a

cooperation between Hasselt University, KU Leuven and VITO, the Flemish Institute for Technological Research.


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