Seeing Red on the Road: Can Car Color Impact Driver Behavior?

PAFF_032615_SeeingRedCars_newsfeatureIt’s a common belief that driving a red car leads to more speeding tickets and higher car insurance rates. However, research from a 2007 study by Monash University in Australia found that red cars are actually slightly less likely to be involved in accidents compared to other colors (black cars were actually most accident prone). The insurance industry also denies that car color comes into play when setting car insurance rates, though they do look at the vehicle make and model.

New research from an international team of psychological scientists puts the brakes on another common stereotype about red cars: they elicit more aggressive driving.

At least in Western culture, the color red has long been associated with emotions like anger and aggression. Since at least 1942, researchers have observed that red can lead to heightened physiological arousal and aggression whereas colors…


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After Drinking, Risky Odds Become More Appealing

PAFF_031815_AlcoholOddsDriving_newsfeatureSt. Patrick’s Day is often one of the deadliest days of the year on U.S. roads. Accompanying the local parades and green hats, a dramatic spike in alcohol-related driving fatalities is often seen during the holiday, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Alcohol not only affects motor skills and reaction times, but it also impacts people’s judgment. One reason that driving drunk is so dangerous: Alcohol increases people’s predilection for risky behavior.

A recent study, published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology, found evidence that as blood alcohol levels spike, people become more likely to indulge in decisions with risky outcomes.

Normally, people tend to avoid decisions in which the outcomes are uncertain, a phenomenon known as ambiguity aversion. But psychological scientists Tadeusz Tyszka, Anna Macko, and Maciej Stańczak from Kozminski University in Warsaw found that after a few…


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Does Video Game Driving Translate to Real-World Skills?

PAFF_031215_VideoGameDriving_newsfeatureEvidence is mounting that playing video games may be one way for people to sharpen a number of cognitive skills.

One recent study found that older adults could significantly improve their ability to multi-task after playing a specially designed driving video game called NeuroRacer. Another study from researchers at the University of Rochester found that playing action-packed video games improved people’s ability to make quick decisions and ignore distractions.

But can hours spent hunched over a controller translate to real skills on the road?

In a recent study, psychological scientists Maria Rita Ciceri and Daniele Ruscio of the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Milan compared the driving skills of avid gamers and experienced motorists to see whether commercially available racing games might help train players to look ahead for hazards.

The researchers were particularly interested in whether video games trained…


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Want to Grab Drivers’ Attention? Use Road Signs Showing More Action


On average, car crashes kill an American pedestrian every 2 hours and injure one every 7 minutes, according to statistics from the CDC. A new study suggests changing road signs to depict more motion—a pedestrian running instead of walking—may be one simple way to help prevent potentially dangerous accidents.

Across five studies, University of Michigan psychological scientist Luca Cian—along with co-authors Aradhna Krishna and Ryan Elder—found that signs that depicted motion resulted in faster reaction times and increased vigilance among would-be drivers, which could ultimately lead to faster stopping times.

Previous research has shown that the same brain regions are active when observing action and when imagining motion, even when viewing static images in which motion is merely implied. This suggests that even in the absence of actual motion the brain is perceiving, and even anticipating, movement.

“If the figures look…


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Simple Maze Test Could Help Identify At-Risk Older Drivers

PAFF_022515_MazeTestDriving_newsfeatureAs we age, many of the cognitive skills required for safe driving begin to decline. But age itself is not a useful guide for when a driver should hand in the keys. While drivers in their sixties can show dangerous cognitive declines, some 95 year-olds are perfectly safe behind the wheel. So how do we determine when seniors should retire from driving?

A recent study sponsored by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that a simple 3-minute test may accurately identify older drivers who are at heightened risk of serious accidents.

Previous research has shown that performance on maze tests, in which subjects trace a path through a simple maze, is a good proxy for the same kinds of visuospatial skills, planning, and judgment required for safe driving.

The research team, led by psychological scientists Loren Staplin and Kenneth Gish of…


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