Traffic behaviour and compliance with the law in low and middle income countries: are we observing “pragmatic driving”?
A common theme in many accounts of road safety and road use in low and middle income countries is a widespread lack of compliance with traffic laws and related legislation. A key element of the success of road crash prevention strategies in high income countries has been the achievement of safer road user behaviour through compliance with traffic laws. Deterrence-based approaches such as speed cameras and random breath testing, which rely on drivers making an assessment that they are likely to be caught if they offend, have been very effective in this regard. However, the long term success of (for example) drink driving legislation has been supported by drivers adopting a moral approach to compliance (“moral adherence to the law”) rather than relying solely on the intensity of police operations. For low and middle income countries such morally based compliance is important, since levels of police resourcing are typically much lower than in Western countries. In the absence of morally based compliance, it is arguable that the patterns of behaviours observed in low and middle income countries can be described as “pragmatic driving”: compliance only when there is a high chance of being detected and fined, or where a crash might occur. The potential characteristics of pragmatic driving and the methodological approaches that could be used are outlined, with reference to the limited existing information available.