Risky Drivers More Likely to Ignore Road Rules Even as Pedestrians

PAFF_102914_RiskyDriversPedestrians_newsfeatureWe’ve all seen it before — distracted pedestrians who dart across the street without thinking and drivers who speed through intersections and stoplights as if they owned the road.

Depending on how you typically get around, it may be tempting to generalize about the other camp and conclude that either pedestrians or drivers are more prone to unwise behavior. But new research shows that unsafe road behavior is more about the individual person than it is about the particular mode of transport: Some people are just more likely to take risks on the road, whether they’re behind the wheel or not.

Psychological scientists Orit Taubman – Ben-Ari and Eliyahu Shay of Bar-Ilan University in Israel found that people who had a driver’s license were actually more likely to engage in dangerous road-crossing behavior, like ignoring red lights, than people without a license.…


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Does Punishing Speeders Prevent Speeding?

PAFF_102214_SpeedingPunishment_newsfeatureSpeeding leads to more car accidents worldwide than almost any other behavior behind the wheel. The World Health Organization (WHO) has cited speeding as the main cause of nearly 30% of all serious or fatal crashes across the globe.

Despite the risks of death or injury, people often admit to intentionally speeding. International studies have found that between 66% and 85% of drivers admit to exceeding speed limits. Although measures like speed traps and red-light cameras aim to cut down on speeding, it’s unclear whether these penalties actually improve behavior on the road.

A team of Spanish researchers led by Francisco Alonso looked at whether current speeding penalties actually convince people to change their behavior.

The researchers used a telephone-based survey to ask 1,100 Spanish drivers about their opinions on speeding and the effectiveness of current speeding penalties. Participants were asked how…


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Are Angry People Also Angry Drivers? Not Necessarily

Whether you’re a driver, a pedestrian, or a cyclist, chances are you’ve had at least a few first-hand experiences with someone with an anger problem behind the wheel.PAFF_101514_AngryDriversMOTR_newsfeature

Aggressive driving, which includes deliberately driving unsafely in order to punish or get even with someone, is a major road hazard. A study from the AAA Foundation looking at more than 10,000 road rage incidents found that altercations between angry drivers resulted in at least 218 murders and another 12,610 injury cases over the course of seven years.

When asked what set off their anger, drivers in the study often cited trivial reasons for why they became violent: “She wouldn’t let me pass,” “They kept tailgating me,” or, as this driver accused of attempted murder explained, “He practically ran me off the road – what was I supposed to do?”

Is someone who screams…


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Navigating Familiar Roads May Lead to Driving on “Autopilot”

For years, data on car accidents has consistently shown that drivers are most likely to crash at locations very near their homes. At first glance it might seem like this phenomenon occurs because people spend the most time driving close to home. However, a recent study suggests that it may actually due to the fact that drivers are less attentive and aware when they’re driving on familiar roads.PAFF_100814_InattentionDriving_plainbackground_newsfeature

Studies have consistently shown that when we’re not actively paying attention we may fail to perceive things that are right before our eyes in a phenomena known as “inattention blindness.” When driving down a familiar street, we may be more likely to drive “on autopilot” without our full attention, increasing the odds that we miss important information, such as construction warnings or a new street sign.

To find out how much familiarity affects drivers,…


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Yellow Lights Pose Particular Peril for Older Drivers

PAFF_100114_SeniorsYellowLightsMOTR_newsfeatureAs we age, our capabilities behind the wheel change, and one of the greatest driving dangers for senior drivers appears to be traffic intersections. Older drivers are far more likely than other drivers to get into an accident at an intersection. According to data from the U.S. Federal Highway Administration, approximately 50% of accidents occur at intersections for drivers over age 50, compared to about 23% of accidents for people under age 50.

A team of researchers led by psychological scientist J. K. Caird of the University of Calgary studied people of varying ages to find out how the current standards for the timing of yellow lights might be impacting driving safety at intersections.

For traffic lights to operate safely, traffic engineers have to take the limitations of human perception into account. For example, traffic engineers typically account for 1 second from…


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