The consumer-citizen duality: Ten reasons why citizens prefer safety and drivers desire speed

Niek Mouter*, Sander van Cranenburgh, Bert van Wee

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)
48 Downloads (Pure)


Cost-benefit analyses for transportation projects usually value impacts on safety and travel time through experiments in which consumers of mobility (‘drivers’) choose between routes which differ in safety and travel time. This approach has been criticized for failing to consider that private choices may not fully reflect citizens’ preferences over public goods and means, a concept known as the consumer-citizen duality. Recent empirical evidence has established that individuals do indeed assign comparatively more value to safety in their role as citizens than in their role as drivers. Our study aims to provide explanations for this finding by presenting four stated choice experiments in which respondents were asked to make choices, both as citizens and as drivers, between routes that differed in travel time and safety. Subsequently, respondents were asked to provide reasons for their choices. We identify five cognitive and five normative explanations. The cognitive explanations suggest that individuals make diverging choices because their perceptions of accident risk differ between the two roles. Drivers will assign a relatively low value to mitigating accident risk because they believe that: (1) such risks are trivial on an individual level; (2) their personal risk is lower than the average risk; (3) their personal risk is controllable; (4) they would not be able to distinguish relative safety levels in real life; and (5) their choices for others are more risk-averse than choices for themselves and, unlike citizens, they are not explicitly evaluating risky choices for others. The normative explanations involve that individuals believe that the government should assign more value to safety compared to individual drivers because: (6) as citizen they are more prone to base their choices on social norms which prescribe risk-averse behaviour in this context; (7) governments have a duty of care concerning the safety of the transportation network; (8) drivers have a relatively high degree of responsibility to reduce their own travel times; (9) governments should account for drivers’ tendencies to choose faster routes by building safer ones; and (10) governments should ensure the safety of the road network because this allows drivers to choose the fastest route without being concerned about the impact of their route choice on accident risk.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)53-63
Number of pages11
JournalAccident Analysis and Prevention
Publication statusPublished - 2018

Bibliographical note

Green Open Access added to TU Delft Institutional Repository ‘You share, we take care!’ – Taverne project Otherwise as indicated in the copyright section: the publisher is the copyright holder of this work and the author uses the Dutch legislation to make this work public.


  • Accident risk valuation
  • Consumer-citizen duality
  • Cost-benefit analysis
  • Economic evaluation accident risk
  • Transport appraisal


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