Date of Award

2010

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts Honours

School

School of Psychology

Faculty

Faculty of Computing, Health and Science

First Advisor

Dr Eyal Gringart

Abstract

Failing to give way to emergency vehicles has resulted in one crash per day on Australian roads (NRMA, 2009), and delayed emergency service responses to situations that constitute a serious threat to life and/or property. With an anticipated population increase in Western Australia (ABS, 2009) this problem will only worsen. Whilst there have been attempts to address the problem through information leaflets and media campaigns, the success of such initiatives is not clear because of a lack of empirical assessment. The little research available in the area, focused on crash scenarios, emergency vehicle drivers, or other non-psychological processes. The current study explored the perspectives of Western Australian drivers on responding to emergency vehicles. Using a qualitative design and in-depth interviews, data were collected from 11 participants who regularly drove in Western Australian. Thematic analysis, within a constructionist framework, was used to identify themes. It was found that participants' responses to emergency vehicles related to their perceptions of emergency services, safety, lawfulness and legitimacy. Individuals with positive views on emergency services indicated a willingness to give way to emergency vehicles. However, the more positive the views the more likely they were to take risks and/or commit unlawful acts attempting to comply with emergency vehicles. Individuals' negative views were more related to perceptions of legitimacy, which decreased their willingness to take risks or commit unlawful acts. Most participants' responses seem to have been affected by a lack of formal or consistent driver education on giving way to emergency vehicles. Overall, their response process was consistent with Lazarus and Folkman's (1984) model of stress and coping. The findings of the current exploratory study make a unique contribution to the body of knowledge in an under-researched area and may be used to inform the development of future measures to further investigate larger and representative samples. Such investigations could inform policy as well as driver education programmes toward enhancing cooperation with emergency vehicles and better public outcomes.

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