Racial Bias Extends to the Crosswalk

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Black pedestrians are at far greater risk of being fatally hit by a car than white pedestrians, according to research from the CDC. From 2000 to 2010, the pedestrian fatality rate for black and Hispanic men was twice the rate for white men, even after controlling for factors such as socioeconomic status, location, and alcohol use.

The results of a new study reveal one factor that may help explain why – the findings suggest that whether a driver yields to a pedestrian may largely depend on a pedestrian’s race.

Psychological scientists Tara Goddard and Kimberly Barsamian Kahn of Portland State University and Arlie Adkins of University of Arizona designed a realistic field study to test drivers’ behavior towards pedestrians of different races as they crossed the street at a clearly marked “zebra” crosswalk. Overall, their results revealed that drivers were far…

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A Psychological Solution Prevents Rubbernecking

PAFF_062615_RubberneckingScreens_newsfeaturePeople just can’t seem to help themselves when it comes to gawking at accidents and car crashes. Rubbernecking—or slowing down to scope out an accident on the side of the road—is a major cause of traffic jams. The bright lights and colors on emergency response vehicles are designed to grab people’s visual attention. But, these attention-grabbing qualities can also make scenes on the side of the road unintentionally distracting for drivers.

As part of an effort to keep drivers’ eyes on the road and feet on the gas pedal, the government in the UK is already investing in incident screens to block drivers’ wandering eyes. The idea is that employing “nothing to see here” screens will lead fewer drivers will slow down to look, and traffic will keep moving while emergency response crews minister to those involved in the accident.

A new…

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Similarity to Human Drivers Inspires Trust in Self-Driving Cars

PAFF_061815_VirtualDriverTrust_newsfeatureEvery year more car manufacturers are including automated features in their vehicles, ranging from adaptive cruise control to automatic parallel parking. Several companies, perhaps most notably Google, are already well on the road to developing fully self-driving cars, claiming that fully automatic cars are safer than human drivers—or at least they will be very soon.

While some have touted the benefits of self-driving cars to include reductions in traffic, pollution, and traffic injuries, the average person will have to be convinced that these smart machines are trustworthy before handing over the keys.

In a new study, psychological scientists Frank Verberne, Jaap Ham, and Cees Midden of Eindhoven University of Technology evaluated whether giving this complex technology a more human face, in the form of a virtual driving agent, would help increase people’s trust of the smart driving system.

Similarity increases trust between…

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Cognitive Costs of Crossing the Street Increase with Age

PAFF_061115_SeniorsStreetCrossing_newsfeatureOn average, a pedestrian in the US is killed in a car-related accident every 2 hours and injured every 7 minutes, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). But children aren’t the ones at greatest risk of a deadly collision with a car– seniors are.

A CDC analysis of pedestrian traffic deaths from 2001-2010 concluded that the risk of death actually increases with age. Children under age 15 had the lowest risk of dying as the result of a collision with a vehicle; people over the age of 75 were more than twice as likely to be killed by a car compared to pedestrians overall.

To find out more about pedestrian decision-making as people age, a team led by psychological scientist Aurélie Dommes of the French Institute of Science and Technology for Transport (IFSTTAR) built a realistic…

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Why People Buckle Up in Cars, But Not in Cabs

PAFF_060415_SeatbeltsTaxis_newsfeatureIn May, Nobel Prize-winning economist John F. Nash Jr. and his wife Alicia were tragically killed in a car accident on the New Jersey expressway. Investigators reported that they were not wearing seat belts at the time, and died after being thrown from the backseat of their taxi.

Whether you’re in the front or back of a car, wearing a seat belt is often the most effective way to prevent serious injury in case of an accident. Yet, in some situations — such as riding in the back of a cab — people are far less likely to buckle up.

In New York City, taxi drivers and their passengers are exempt from laws regarding car seats and seat belts. According to a passenger survey from the NYC Taxi and Limousine Commission “only 38% of passengers reported they were using the taxi’s seat…

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