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Investigating sources and modes of communication through which rural raised drivers learn and experience cultural models of driving and their impact on driving safety



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Saskatchewan faces a serious problem with its traffic safety: there are more traffic-related injuries and fatalities in Saskatchewan than in other Canadian provinces. This issue is particularly problematic on rural roads, where young rural drivers are involved in a disproportionately high number of traffic-related fatalities. However, research has yet to determine what and how information is transmitted to young rural-raised drivers or how this information differs after moving to an urban centre. To address these gaps, the present research explores the cultural models of driving in Saskatchewan and how these models are transmitted to young drivers so that they develop either safe or unsafe driving mental models. A survey questionnaire of rural-raised university undergraduates who drive estimated their relative level of driving safety via driving styles, traffic risk perception, and attitudes toward driving. Following a case-based approach to qualitative research, subsequent interviews with seven survey participants permitted an in-depth understanding of which driving mental model components (both safe and unsafe) develop in these drivers and the modes and sources of communication through which this development occurs. Results describe several universalities and discrepancies among young rural-raised drivers’ perceptions of the cultural and individual mental models of driving. For example, rural driving is associated with reckless practices, low police presence, and underage driving, though safety benefits from minimal distractors (besides wildlife). Findings also indicate that, of all cultural model transmission modes, punishment and observation/modeling have the strongest impact on mental model development. Finally, of the sources of cultural model transmission examined, family and friends/peers appear to have the most significant influence on this group’s mental models of driving. Practical applications, limitations, and directions for future research of this exploratory study are also discussed.



traffic safety, rural safety, mental model, cultural model, case-based design, qualitative research



Master of Arts (M.A.)




Applied Social


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