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The Journal of Psychology Volume 120 issue 3 1986 [doi 10.1080%2F00223980.1986.10545255] Guastello, Stephen J.; Guastello, Denise D. The Relation Between the Locus of Control Construct and Involvem .pdf

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This article was downloaded by: [York University Libraries]
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The Journal of Psychology: Interdisciplinary and
Publication details, including instructions for authors and subscription information:

The Relation Between the Locus of Control Construct
and Involvement in Traffic Accidents

Stephen J. Guastello & Denise D. Guastello


Department of Psychology , Marquette University


Department of Psychology , Loyola University of Chicago
Published online: 26 Nov 2012.

To cite this article: Stephen J. Guastello & Denise D. Guastello (1986) The Relation Between the Locus of Control Construct
and Involvement in Traffic Accidents, The Journal of Psychology: Interdisciplinary and Applied, 120:3, 293-297, DOI:
To link to this article:

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The Journal of Psychology. 120(3), 293c297

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The Relation Between the
Locus of Control Construct and
Involvement in Traffic Accidents
Department of Psychology
Marquette University
Department of Psychology
Loyola Universiry of Chicago

ABSTRACT. We investigated the relation between the Rotter (1966) locus of control
concept and involvement in automobile accidents. Subjects were 184 college students who completed a survey measuring accident involvement, the Rotter scale, and
scales featuring beliefs and behaviors in traffic situations that would be expected
from internally oriented persons. No significant relation was found between the Rotter scale and traffic accidents. Accident involvement was best explained by internal
beliefs about accident control, and the reported number of near-miss accidents per
week. A path diagram relating survey variables is included.

THE PURPOSES OF THIS INVESTIGATION were to explore the possibility of a correlation between the locus of control concept (Rotter, 1966) and
involvement in auto accidents and to explore the situational specificity of the
locus of control concept in the traffic situation. There are several reasons to
suggest that the central hypothesis was reasonable. According to theory, persons with an internal locus of control believe that the good and bad things that
happen to them are the direct result of their own actions (Lefcourt, 1981;
Rotter, 1966). Persons with an external locus of control do not believe that
they have such control; one would surmise that external persons would believe that accident involvement is a matter of luck. There is some evidence
that internals who have been involved in auto accidents see themselves as
Requests for reprints should be sent to Stephen J . Guastello, Department of Psychology, Marquette University, Milwaukee, WI 53233.

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The Journal of Psychology

contributing to causes of the accident more often than do external persons
who were also involved in auto accidents (Foreman, Ellis, & Beavan, 1983).
Sims, Graves, and Simpson (1984) also cited several studies where locus of
control scores were related to perceptions of risk and responsibility in other
types of situations. In their own investigation, they found no relation between
locus of control scores and accident rates for samples of Welsh miners.
In addition to establishing the presence or absence of a relation between
the two variables, it would be desirable to understand why it might occur. To
reach this goal, Guastello (1985) created a transitional scale depicting beliefs
or attitudes about control of industrial accidents (belief scale) that would be
expected given the locus of control attributional bias. It should be equally
applicable to automobile drivers. It is thought that internals would endorse
the following statements.
1. Agree: Accidents are caused by mistakes people make.
2. Disagree: Sometimes accidentsjust happen, and there is nothing that
can be done about it.
3. Agree: Trusting in luck does not work to improve safety.
4. Disagree: Near-miss accidents are not important, only the ones that
actually happened.
5. Disagree: I do not have much control over whether the people I work
with follow safe procedures.
6 . Disagree: I feel I have been lucky with regard to accidents.
7. Agree: I feel I can always keep myself out of an accident,
8. Agree: Accidents have nothing to do with luck.

In several mills or foundries where the survey has been used, the accident
belief scale (keyed to internal orientation) was negatively correlated with
group accident rates or indirectly related by way of manifest anxiety. A formal
report of that research is forthcoming. For the present purposes, we wrote the
following statements (behavior scale) depicting endorsements of internally
oriented persons.

1. Agree: Almost all accidents can be prevented.
2. Agree: Learning safe driving habits is important to me.
3. Agree: I feel that discovering the causes of past accidents can help
prevent future accidents from occumng.
4. Agree: When I'm riding with someone who is driving badly, I usually say something.
5. Agree: Driving safely keeps me out of accidents.
6. Disagree: I often forget the rules of the road.
7. Disagree: We need more police on the road to enforce safe driving

Guastello & Guastello


8. Disagree: I do not believe that wearing a seat belt lessens my chance
of injury.
9. Agree: I feel I can keep myself out of an accident.

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The new set of items was similar to the first but contained a larger number of specific situations and behaviors. We hypothesized that significant correlations would exist among the number of accidents a person had in the past
3 years and the Rotter (1966), belief, and behavior scales.

Subjects were 184 college students from a midwestern university. The sample
was thought to be an appropriate choice because the subjects' age span (17 to
24 years) is the bracket of greatest risk for auto accidents, according to most
insurance companies. A sample of college students was also thought to have
a relatively homogeneous range of driving exposures.
Subjects anonymously completed our Auto Accident Involvement Survey, which collects the following information: (a) How many near-miss accidents do you have in the course of a week (0 = usually none, 1, 2 , 3 , 4 =
four or more)? (b) Check all types of motor vehicle license you have (automobile, motorcycle, truck, and other). All subjects had automobile licenses;
there were too few motorcycle or truck licenses to perform differential analyses. (c) How long ago did you get your first license (0 = 1-2 years, I = 35 years, 2 = 6-10 years, 3 = over 10 years). (d) How many accidents have
you been involved in during the past three years where both A. you were
driving, and B. there was over $250.00 damage resulting? Include those accidents where you were at fault and where you were not at fault (0, 1, 2, 3,
4 = four or more). Follow-up questions divided these accidents into ones
where the subject was driving an automobile, motorcycle, or truck. No 4istinction among accidents by type of vehicle driven was made in the analyses.
The accident involvement questions were followed by the belief scale, the
behavior scale, and the Rotter (1966) scale. The last three scales were keyed
so that high scores indicated internal orientation.
We calculated Pearson product-moment correlations among survey variables. Finally, we calculated a stepwise multiple regression summarizing the
key predictors of tr&c accidents.

There was a small, positive correlation between the number of near-miss accidents per week reported and the number of tra%c accidents during the last
three years (r = .14, p < .06). Accidents were negatively correlated with the
belief scale (r = - .22, p = .002), indicating that internals were involved in

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The Journal of Psychology

fewer accidents than were externals. No such relation was found between
accidents and the internal behavior scale (r = - .02, ns) or between accidents
and the Rotter scale (r = .05, ns), however.
The Rotter (1966) scale correlated .13 (p € .05) with the belief scale,
.24 with the behavior scale (p = .001), and .26 with the sum of the two
scales ( p < .001). The belief and behavior scales correlated -17 (p < .05)
with each other. Figure 1 shows a path diagram summarizing these relations.
The following five variables were hypothesized to contribute to the multiple prediction of accidents: beliefs, behaviors, the Rotter (1966) scale, years
of driving experience, and the number of near-miss accidents reported per
week. Only beliefs ( p < .01) and number of near-miss accidents ( p < .05)
made significant contributions. The multiple correlation coefficient was .26,
(F = 6.35, p < .01).
The following values of Cronbach's alpha were obtained for the experimental scales: .72 for the Rotter (1966) scale, - .05 for beliefs, .43 for behaviors, and .34 for beliefs and behaviors considered as a 17-item scale. The
last three values were thought to be gross underestimates because reliability
values less than .OO are theoretically impossible and because the scale with
the lowest obtained value was the one best correlated with accident rates.

The results of the analysis allow for two tentative conclusions. First, in spite
of some tempting reasoning to the contrary, no direct relation was found between the Rotter (1966) locus of control scale and trafic accidents. Second,




~ p e u s o ~ ~ o n ---------1----*----tro~



FIGURE 1. Pattern of correlation for key constructs.


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Guastello & Guastello


the lack of relation appeared to be rooted in the transformation of the Rotter
concept into specific beliefs about accidents and driving behaviors. The locus
of control factor represented a generalized attributional style. When it was
mixed with situational constraints and related experience, a set of beliefs and
behaviors that only partially represented the original concept resulted. One
intermediary construct was more closely related to accident involvement. It
is also possible that the relation among variables in Figure 1 was reciprocal
or recursive in nature.
These conclusions should be accepted only provisionally in light of the
low internal consistency of the beIief and behavior scales. These values are
thought to be underestimates; an alpha value of .44 for beliefs was obtained
in a factory situation (Guastello, 1985). Even in the most advantageous situations, the new measures clearly need improvement. More extensive investigations of the effect of the locus of control concept and other variables on
automobile accidents are warranted, however, on the basis of the present findings.
Foreman, E. I . , Ellis, H. D . , & Beavan, D. (1983). Mea culpa? A study of the
relationship among personality traits, life events, and ascribed accident causation.
British Journal of Clinical Psychology, 22, 223-224.
Guastello, S. J. (1985). Employee assessment of occupational hazards: A case report with the safety survey. Milwaukee, WI: Author.
Lefcourt, H. M. (Ed.). (1981). Research with the locus of control concept I . New
York: Academic Press.
Rotter, J. B. (1966). Generalized expectancies for the internal versus external locus
of control of reinforcement. Psychological Monographs, 80.
Sims, M. T., Graves, R. J., & Simpson, G. C. (1984). Mineworkers' scores for the
Rotter internal-external locus of control scale. Journal of Occupational Psychology, 57, 327-329.
Received January 28, 1986

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