The thesis aims to: (a) broaden the knowledge base that makes up the foundation for decisions with regard to how traffic law enforcement is best outlined, as well as increasing the understanding of how the shaping of different public instruments of control affects the chances of success; and (b) contribute to the development of theory and methodology within sociology of law. The relationship between legal rules and social norms play a crucial part in the analysis. The study takes place within the framework of the broader question of how traffic control and sanctioning systems in general influence the road-users behaviour. Other strategies such as education, information or various technical solutions are ever so important but fall outside the scope of the specific issue being investigated in this study. The specific research question is: Can the observance of the laws on the roads be increased through increased traffic control and/or through more stringent sanctions? The question is delimited to speed, seat belt use and sobriety.
The thesis thus operates using three fundamental unities of analysis: speed, seat belt use and sanction. The question will be answered using five main instruments. Firstly, it concerns a theoretical model of analysis developed for the study, which has been used in the design of the empirical analyses as well as in the analysis of empirical results. Secondly, the investigation originates from a description of the law and the authorities that are administrators of justice in the field. Thirdly, the results from an empirical investigation are presented that was directed towards Swedish embassies around the world and that gives an illustration of how supervision and sanctions are used in other countries. Fourthly, it relates to a literature study where European research results in the field are presented. Fifthly, the results from an empirical study of social norms in Sweden are presented, which has been conducted through a survey that a thousand people responded to.
To conclude, it can be ascertained that the supervision and the sanctions are determining factors in terms of ensuring the observance of the laws on the roads. This is shown by both the literature study and the embassy study. The survey showed that the scope to improve the observance of the laws through increased supervision of the speed, seat belt and sobriety rules is decidedly broadest in the speed domain.
If one wants to understand the reasons behind the reality that the law has not been able to ensure observance of the laws within the speed domain, one must proceed from the political action that forms the basis of Swedish road safety work. A fundamental problem is that the politicians have chosen to convey the zero vision to the authorities concerned through a concentrated proposed law, which is an exceedingly weak instrument of control. The political apparatus marks averseness and the authorities concerned turn downwards in the system directly towards the citizens to construct legitimacy. This kind of steering can in some areas be efficient and bring about positive results. But when dealing with an area where a gap has developed between the social norm system and the legal system, it is rather a counterproductive form of steering. When the authorities responsible for implementing the legislation must turn towards the public to seek support for their actions, it is clearly difficult to come to the conclusion of pressuring the public to act against their will. The legislation says one thing and the social norms another and the authorities concerned lack clear signals from both political quarters and from the public.