Completed 2021 Research Project

Assessing how private beliefs conflict with public action on Safe Systems

Principal Investigator
Seth LaJeunesse 
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
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Co-Principal Investigator
Jill Cooper
University of California, Berkeley
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Full Report

Interim Research Brief: Peer Influence and Perceptions of Safety

Project Slide Deck

Research Brief


Having surveyed 1,000 residents of North Carolina about their transportation values and travel mode aspirations, among other factors, the research team discovered that participants most favored having self-direction in travel, being comfortable, and avoiding injury while traveling. They valued avoiding being stuck in traffic or reducing their environmental footprint less. Participants aspired to drive cars in the future, and most sought to walk more. Fewer aspired to use transit, ride bicycles, or ride motorcycles in the future.
Participants were not always accurate with their assessment of others’ values and travel mode aspirations, and this pluralistic ignorance around others’ values and aspirations varied according to the latent class participants aligned with: (1) Convenience Enthusiasts—unemployed or retired older middle-aged and politically disengaged adults who were satisfied with their primary travel mode of driving; (2) Injury Emphasizers—young, employed, modally dissatisfied, and politically engaged pedestrians and transit users; and (3) Aspiring Multimodalists—younger middle-aged, current and aspiring multimodalists who were satisfied with their usual travel mode, and both politically and socially engaged with transportation issues. Convenience Enthusiasts overestimated others’ values around avoiding being stuck in traffic, as well as others’ biking and transit use aspirations. Aspiring Multimodalists underestimated the degree to which others aspired to bike.
In the last stage of this study, we carried out a phronetic analysis of North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) artifacts, including their stated mission, vision, goals, and values; statewide transportation investments law; and the agency’s Safety and Mobility Unit introductory webpage. We find that NC General Assembly and NCDOT priorities and policies appear to be organized around affording travelers swift, less-delayed travel, rather than provisioning viable and safe mobility choices. We end the report with conclusions and practical implications toward addressing pluralistic ignorance about what others most want and need from their transportation system and aligning transportation investments with communities’ expressed values and aspirations.

Project Details

Project Type: Research
Project Status: Completed
Start Date: 06/01/2021
End Date: 08/31/2023
Contract Year: Year 5
Total Funding from CSCRS: $120,397