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Lay Perceptions of Responsibility and Accountability for Fatigue-Related Road Crashes.
Small groups of participants acting as mock juries heard an audiotape of the summing up arguments in a fatigue-related truck-crash court case. When asked to decide if they thought that the defendant was guilty, participants found the defendant not guilty significantly more often than guilty. Furthermore, their decision of guilt was not affected by whether the defendant was an individual or a corporation. Issues that participants thought important when coming to their decision were the awareness of sleepiness by the defendant and communication that the driver had with others earlier in the day prior to the crash. On average, when asked to allocate penalties, participants gave an average of half the maximum penalty to the defendant. Coupled with the low conviction rate, and the content of the discussions captured when the groups were coming to their decisions, this study suggests that the seriousness of driver fatigue is under-recognised by the general public.