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Keywords:

  • Accidents causes;
  • risk perception;
  • culture;
  • fatalism

Identifying the causes of accidents is a necessary prerequisite for preventive action. Some research suggests however that the analysis of accidents does not only differ between experts and laymen but that it is also linked to certain characteristics inherent in the analyst and in the social group to which he belongs: beliefs, value systems, norms, experiences in common, attitudes, roles, social and technical practices, etc. Culturally determined bias seems to affect the perception of risk and the causes of accidents. This article presents a certain number of thoughts and results based upon research carried out on causal attributions of traffic accidents in The Ivory Coast (West Africa) and discusses the importance of culture in risk-taking and accident prevention. It shows in particular that fatalistic beliefs and mystical practices influence the perception of accidents and consequently incite one to take more risks and neglect safety measures.