Dangerous risks – risky dangers. A Model of Risk- and Danger Perceptions and Consequences for Message Strategies to Improve Road Safety

TitleDangerous risks – risky dangers. A Model of Risk- and Danger Perceptions and Consequences for Message Strategies to Improve Road Safety
Publication TypeConference Paper
Author(s)Frueh, H., and E. Baumann
Affiliation (1st Author)University of Erfurt
Section or WGEnvironment, Science, and Risk Communication Working Group
DateFri 28 June
Slot CodeENVF3a
Slot Code (Keyword)ENVF3a
Time of Session14:00-15:30
RoomHelix Blue Room
Session TitleRisk Communication
Submission ID6005

Despite constantly improving technologies that make cars and roads safer, there still die about 31,000 people of car accidents in the EU per year (see destatis). As it is a major concern of society to reduce the number of road accident fatalities, many prevention campaigns have already been realized. Unfortunately, they often fail to raise the target groups’ awareness for accident risks. Thus, the development of campaign strategies needs to be adjusted to the risk groups’ health related risk perceptions and their susceptibility towards preventive messages. Thus, we tried to combine basic assumptions from risk and health communication in an integrative perception model to explain how people perceive and process information about threats. Corresponding to many models in risk or health communication, the model is based on individual (health) risk perceptions. Based on theory and research in the field of risk communication (e.g., Beck, 2007, pp. 74) we add the differentiation between risk and dangers to our perception model. This is mainly connected to principal or perceived control of anticipated threats or their consequences. While risk perceptions are linked to the perception of being able to identify risk factors, the perception of danger refers to the anticipation of a quite diffuse and uncontrollable event. Depending on the extent of these perceptions, individuals feel different levels of uncertainty regarding to the potential threat. Correspondingly, messages that emphasize either risks or dangers communication should have different effects. We therefore included the dimension of event characteristics and the corresponding individuals’ perceptions of these features into our model of risk perception and health behavior. Especially from an individual point of view, this distinction might be helpful to explain and to predict risk behavior (e.g., Volz & Gigerenzer, 2012). Though, we combined assumptions from linear models of health behavior by integrating relevant determinants of health behavior (see Fishbein & Cappella, 2006) and assumptions from risk communication conceptualizations (e.g., Beck, 2007). To illustrate how our model can be applied in the context of health related risk communication, we use the example of road safety. The model offers two principal communication strategies: (1) risk communication showing the possibilities to control a risk and (2) danger communication stressing the lack of control of a possible future event: We suggest that in situations where drivers might overestimate the general controllability of traffic safety or their own driving skills or even in the case of sensation seeking, risk communication dealing with control-information might be counterproductive whereas a communication strategy insisting on the (uncontrollable) dangers of car driving might be helpful to pursue people of safer car driving. References  Beck,U.(2007). Weltrisikogesellschaft [World Risk Society]. Frankfurta.M.:Suhrkamp. Fishbein,M.&Cappella,J.N.(2006). The Role of Theory in Developing Effective Health Communications. Journal of Communication, 56, S1-S17. Viswanath,K. (2008). Health Communication. In W. Donsbach (Hrsg.), The International Encyclopedia of Communication (Vol. V, S. 2073-2087). Malden/Oxford/Charlton: Blackwell Publishing. Volz,K.G.,&Gigerenzer,G.(2012). Cognitive Processes in decisions under risk are not the same as in decisions under uncertainty. Frontiers in Neuroscience, 6, 1-6.

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