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The Concept of Accident Proneness: A Review
  1. Peter Froggatt,
  2. James A. Smiley
  1. Department of Social and Preventive Medicine, The Queen's University, Belfast


    The term accident proneness was coined by psychological research workers in 1926. Since then its concept—that certain individuals are always more likely than others to sustain accidents, even though exposed to equal risk—has been questioned but seldom seriously challenged.

    This article describes much of the work and theory on which this concept is based, details the difficulties encountered in obtaining valid information and the interpretative errors that can arise from the examination of imperfect data, and explains why accident proneness became so readily accepted as an explanation of the facts.

    A recent hypothesis of accident causation, namely that a person's accident liability may vary from time to time, is outlined, and the respective abilities of this and of accident proneness to accord with data from the more reliable literature are examined.

    The authors conclude that the hypothesis of individual variation in liability is more realistic and in better agreement with the data than is accident proneness.

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