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Public perceptions of risk and preference-based values of safety

Chilton, S.; Covey, J.; Hopkins, L.; Jones-Lee, M.; Loomes, G.; Pidgeon, N.; Spencer, A.


S. Chilton

L. Hopkins

M. Jones-Lee

G. Loomes

N. Pidgeon

A. Spencer


This article reports the results of two studies aimed at estimating preference-based values of safety in three contexts—namely rail, domestic fires and fires in public places—relative to the corresponding value for roads using matching (or equivalence) questions. In addition, both studies included a variety of questions intended to shed light on respondents' perceptions of risk and attitudes to safety in the various contexts. While the two studies were, to all intents and purposes, identical in the procedure that they employed, the essential difference between them was that the first study took place in late 1998, whereas the second study was carried out in early 2000 in the aftermath of a major rail accident at Ladbroke Grove near London's Paddington station which occurred in October 1999 and in which 29 passengers and 2 train drivers died. In addition, the second study sample was deliberately weighted to contain an above-average proportion of regular rail users. These studies demonstrated how certain factors which have been shown to affect people's perception of risk (see Slovic, P. (1992). In S. Krimsky and D. Golding (eds.), Social Theories of Risk, Westport, CT: Praeger, pp. 117–152) also affected our respondents' priorities over safety programs. The results also showed however, that the impact of these perceptions upon the trade-offs between preventing deaths in different hazard contexts was a good deal less pronounced than has been suggested by the value differentials that are currently implicit—and in some cases, explicit—in public policy making.


Chilton, S., Covey, J., Hopkins, L., Jones-Lee, M., Loomes, G., Pidgeon, N., & Spencer, A. (2002). Public perceptions of risk and preference-based values of safety. Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, 25(3), 211-232.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date 2002-11
Deposit Date Mar 30, 2007
Journal Journal of Risk and Uncertainty
Print ISSN 0895-5646
Electronic ISSN 1573-0476
Publisher Springer
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 25
Issue 3
Pages 211-232