The New England Transportation Institute (NETI) was interested in better understanding issues of rural highway safety. The vastly higher rate of highway deaths experienced by rural residents, compared to urban and suburban residents, can be at least partially explained by the presence of a “rural culture” characterized by bad attitudes towards dangerous driving behaviors. RSG worked with NETI to conduct a web-based attitudinal survey of New England drivers to get at these issues.
The survey data were then used to conduct a latent class cluster segmentation and structural equation modeling to determine what types of driver safety segments exist in the population, and what factors drive their behavior. Latent class cluster analysis had previously been a technique used in market research, but this study represented one of the first times it was applied in a transportation setting. This analysis was able to identify four distinct segments of driver attitudes and resulting behaviors, and showed that there is no “rural culture” of unsafe driving behavior. Rather, there are simply subgroups of individuals within this demographic that display unsafe driving behaviors.