Police Language in Traffic Stops Shows Hidden Bias

PAFF_072016_PoliceLanguageTraffic_newsfeatureRecords show that 32-year-old Philando Castile was stopped by police at least 46 times before he was killed by a police officer during another traffic stop in a suburb of St. Paul, Minnesota. Several recent investigations have shown that a disproportionate number of the motorists pulled over, fined, searched, and arrested by police during traffic stops are African American. Routine traffic stops over minor infractions, such as broken brake lights or a failure to signal, have led to a number of high-profile deaths of unarmed African American drivers at the hands of police—further fueling accusations of racial bias in policing.

Because traffic stops are one of the most common ways that individuals interact with the police, they also present an important opportunity to improve community relations between police and civilians. In a comprehensive research review published in Psychological Science in…

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The Moral Science Behind Self-Driving Cars

PAFF_070716_SelfDrivingMorality_newsfeatureEarlier this year, Joshua Brown of Canton, Ohio became the first known fatality of a self-driving car. Brown was killed in May when his Tesla Model S crashed into a tractor trailer while engaged in a self-driving Autopilot mode. Although Tesla’s Autopilot mode allows its vehicles to automatically apply brakes, steer, and change lanes, the company has insisted that this technology is not meant to replace a human driver—at least not quite yet.

“When used in conjunction with driver oversight, the data is unequivocal that Autopilot reduces driver workload and results in a statistically significant improvement in safety,” Tesla said in a statement.

And they have a good point — according to Tesla, their cars have logged 130 million miles on the road using Autopilot with just a single fatality. By comparison, human drivers averaged 1.08 crash deaths per 100 million miles…

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Why Driving Lessons Should Go Green

PAFF_062216_GreenDrivingLessons_newsfeatureRoad transportation accounts for around 20% of greenhouse gas emissions in the European Union, according to the European Commission. One strategy to help reduce emissions is to get bus drivers to adopt new driving behaviors to use up less fuel. But can training people in the lab actually translate to greener driving behavior on the road?

A promising new study shows that a simple behavioral intervention for bus drivers may go a long way towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Working with Pirita Niemi of the Työtehoseura organization in Finland, psychological scientists Mark J.M. Sullman and Lisa Dorn of Cranfield University in the UK designed a field experiment to see if eco-driving in the lab could lead to lasting behavior changes on the road.

A group of professional bus drivers was trained in the lab on how to use more fuel-efficient driving strategies.…

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Dynamic Dazzle Distorts Speed Perception

This is a photo of a zebra standing in front of black and white stripes.During World War I, a zoologist proposed that British warships could use the “disruptive” camouflage of zebras and leopards to confuse enemy ships. Instead of attempting to hide from view, the idea was that “razzle dazzle” patterns would make it difficult for the enemy to accurately gauge a ship’s position — misleading rather than hiding.

Although both American and British warships were painted with psychedelic zebra-stripe patterns based on this theory, it was never conclusively shown that the razzle dazzle stripes helped the ships elude enemy fire.

“[C]omplex high contrast patterns were used on ships during both World Wars with the aim of disguising properties such as the direction, size, shape, range and speed of the moving target,” the researchers write. “This so-called dazzle coloration was often a…

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Repeat Drunk Drivers and the Neurobiology of Risk

PAFF_051816_NeurobiologyDUI_newsfeature“I recognize the seriousness of this mistake. I’ve learned from this mistake and will continue learning from this mistake for the rest of my life,” said 22-time Olympic medalist Michael Phelps during his first drunk driving sentencing hearing in 2004.

Phelps was convicted of drunk driving again in 2014 after police witnessed him crossing the double yellow line while driving 84 miles per hour in a 45-mph zone. According to police records, Phelps’s blood alcohol level was nearly twice the legal limit at the time of his second DUI arrest.

Drunk driving accounts for 35-40% of all driver fatalities in Canada and the United States, and drunk driving crashes kill more than 10,000 Americans every year. One challenge to preventing these needless deaths is stopping repeat DUI offenders: An estimated 30% of DUI offenders will continue to drink and drive,…

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