RMIT Vietnam NewsRoad risks

Road risks

Tuesday, November 18, 2014 - 10:16
Motorcyclists coursing through Ho Chi Minh City’s streets believe they are perceived as foolish if they heed road laws around those who do not, research has found.

Research delves into motorcyclists' psyche to stem road carnage.

Motorcyclists coursing through Ho Chi Minh City's streets believe they are perceived as foolish if they heed road laws around those who do not, research has found.

The study also highlighted young Vietnamese motorcyclists over-estimate their riding ability while believing their peers are less skilled and speed more often.

RMIT University researchers have delved into motorcyclists' psyche in a bid to determine how more effective road safety campaigns can be engineered given Vietnam's staggering number of road casualties. In 2013, almost 40,000 road traffic incidents were reported throughout the country, including 9,600 fatalities. In HCMC, 70 per cent of road accidents were linked to motorbikes.

RMIT University Vietnam lecturers Hue Duong and Assistant Professor Lukas Parker, RMIT University Melbourne's Professor Linda Brennan and Chevening scholarship recipient Dang Nguyen surveyed more than 500 young motorcyclists and conducted focus groups with adolescents, families and adult males and females to gauge perceptions on riding and "social norms" (rules or behavior accepted by a group or society).

The researchers have penned two papers titled Going With The Flow: Young Motorcyclists' Perception Of Speeding Norms and But I AM normal: safe? Driving in Vietnam that have been accepted by the upcoming Australia-New Zealand Marketing Academy Conference in Brisbane and the Journal of Social Marketing respectively.

Professional Communication Program lecturer Hue Duong said some of the research findings were surprising and much-needed given hitherto scant research about road safety and social norms in Vietnam.

"Surprisingly we found there was a widely held belief that if one obeyed the road laws but others didn't, the one who did abide by the rules was foolish," said Hue Duong, who has also written articles for Saigon Times and Saigon Marketing about perceptions of road safety.

"No government in the world can ensure law enforcement on road safety anywhere and at any time, and that is why healthy social norms should be established and encouraged. If we can make sense of these norms, we will be able to better channel our resources into designing the right messages for effective social change campaigns."

Assistant Professor Lukas Parker said findings were compounded by the fact that Vietnam was a collectivist culture, with individuals further seeking their peers' approval.

He said while literature generally found young motorcyclists over-estimated their own ability and underestimated that of their peers, it was still a cause for concern.

"This lesser fear of the potential fatal consequences of risky behaviours is often characteristic of young adults," Lukas Parker said.

The focus groups also found males commonly assumed that they were good drivers, while females felt less skilled.

"These assumptions demonstrate that traditional gender stereotypes may still be at play and may be something that needs to be addressed," Lukas Parker said.

The research builds upon exploratory studies undertaken by the Asia Injury Prevention Foundation. The AIP foundation have run many successful road safety campaigns in Vietnam since 1999.