The role of safety in modal choice and shift: a transport expert perspective in the state of Victoria (Australia)

Mohammad Nabil Ibrahim, David B. Logan, Sjaan Koppel, Brian Fildes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


BACKGROUND: Previous research showed differences in the exposure to risk from using different modes of transport and that modal choice can significantly impact road safety outcomes. Though, a modal shift to a safer mode is not commonly discussed as part of road safety strategies. AIM: This study aimed to explore the perspectives of transport policymakers about the role of safety in modal choice and if it can be one of the main factors for modal choice and shift. METHOD: Seven semi-structured interviews were conducted with transport experts from government (n = 5) and private (n = 2) organisations in the state of Victoria. Interview transcripts were analysed using a thematic approach to identify the key perspectives of the experts. RESULTS: Overall, the analyses indicated uncertainty of the ability to use safety in modal choice as a road safety strategy and identified two main issues; 1) the perceived limited role that safety plays in people's modal choice, and 2) that safety is perceived to be a barrier to modal choice and modal shift towards public and active travel. Experts suggested that when considering transport modes other factors such as convenience, availability, speed, cost, trip purpose and income are more influential than safety in modal choice. They also suggested that safety might play a role within the chosen mode, but not in choosing between modes, such as considering safety features when purchasing a car after deciding to drive a car. It was also stated that safety could act as a barrier preventing people from choosing sustainable transport modes of public transport and active travel. CONCLUSIONS: Theoretically, it is argued that safety and mobility cannot be traded against each other, and that mobility becomes a function of safety, not vice-versa. However, our findings indicated that the transport experts did not believe that safety is the main factor in the modal choice process. Transport experts believed users choose their mode of transport mainly to achieve mobility benefits without necessarily considering how safe is their choice as a differentiator factor. While the shift to a safer mode of transport would help improve road safety outcomes, further investigations are needed to inform how can we influence the consideration of safety as the main factor in modal choice and removing barriers to using the relatively safest available mode of transport.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e0280949
Number of pages14
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2023

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