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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Why Hands-Free Phones Are A Driving Danger

PAFF_092414_HandsfreePhonesMOTR_newsfeatureBy now, we should all know that talking on a cell phone while driving is a bad idea. So far, 14 states have banned driving with a handheld phone, but researchers caution that hands-free phones may be just as dangerous and distracting.

In 2011 the National Transportation Safety Board called for an end to all cellphone use in the car saying, “there is no difference between hand-helds and hands-free.” New research from a team of psychological scientists from Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada further confirms that even hands-free phone conversations can have a negative impact on driver performance.

In order to drive safely, we need to be able to accurately assess what’s going on around us in space and time—also known as situational awareness. Situational awareness allows drivers to organize the sights and sounds around them into a comprehensible mental representation that…

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Cruise Control May Prevent Speeding, But Slow Reaction Times

PAFF_091714_CruiseControl_newsfeatureAs cars become increasingly automated, researchers are looking at who’s the better driver: the human or the car.

Most cars and trucks now come equipped with cruise control–which allows a car to automatically maintain a constant speed without input from the driver–and many newer vehicles have advanced cruise control (ACC) systems that automatically adjust a car’s speed to maintain a safe distance from the car ahead.

A recent study from psychological scientists Mark Vollrath, Susanne Schleicher, and Christhard Gelau found that cruise control and ACC systems can have both positive and negative effects on driving safety.

Previous research has shown some benefits to using cruise control systems, but there may also be some increased risks. Several studies have found that drivers using cruise control systems are more likely to obey speed limits. However, a 2013 study from the University of Strasbourg found…

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Advance Warning for Light Changes Could Make Intersections Safer

PA major survey by the car insurance industry found that nearly 85% of drivers could not identify the correct action to take when approaching a yellow traffic light at an intersection (and, no, the correct response is not to speed up).

When a traffic light changes from green to yellow we have to make quick decisions without much information, making them one of the more dangerous encounters on the road. In 2009, the Federal Highway Administration estimated there were 1.2 million crashes at intersections with traffic signals, resulting in 372,000 fatalities or injuries.

However, a recent study found that giving drivers advanced warning about light changes could have the potential to make intersections dramatically safer. A team of researchers led by psychological scientist Leo Gugerty of Clemson University found that when drivers were given advance warning that a green light was about…

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A History of Stress May Contribute to Anxiety Behind the Wheel

PAFF_090314_DrivingAnxietyMOTR_newsfeatureAt least once in our lives, nearly all of us will be in some kind of car accident. Statistics from the car insurance industry estimate that the average American driver will file a collision claim about once every 18 years. Over the course of your driving lifetime you’re likely to rack up three or four accidents.

For many people, the experience of a car accident can trigger anxiety about driving. Anxious driving behaviors have been shown to impair driving performance, leading to more mistakes on the road and higher odds of another accident. But not everyone who experiences a car accident ends up developing anxiety behind the wheel.

In a recent study, a team of psychological scientists led by Joshua D. Clapp of the University of Wyoming looked at whether stressful events unrelated to driving could make someone more vulnerable to developing…

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