You’re A Distracted Driver Even When You Ignore That Text

PAFF_082715_DistractingTextsDriving_newsfeatureBy now, drivers should be well aware of the dangers posed by using a mobile phone while driving. Each day 9 people are killed, and more than 1,153 people are injured in crashes due to driver distraction, according to the CDC.

However, new research shows that simply receiving a call or text—even if drivers ignore it—can be dangerously distracting.

Psychological scientists from Florida State University, Cary Stothart, Ainsley Mitchum, and Courtney Yehnert, found that an incoming text or call impaired people’s ability to concentrate—even if they didn’t check their phone.

“There is a great deal of evidence that interacting with mobile devices, whether sending messages or engaging in conversations, can impair driving performance,” the researchers write. “Our results suggest that mobile phones can disrupt attention performance even if one does not interact with the device.”

Previous research has clearly shown that distracting…


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Why ‘Batman’ Met a Tragic Death on the Highway

Leonard B. Robinson, known as the “Route 29 Batman,” was killed this week after his black “Batmobile” broke down on the highway. At the time of the accident, Robinson was dressed in the black Batman costume he often wore to cheer up sick children in the hospital.

After his car experienced an engine problem, Robinson pulled over to the side of a dark highway where he got out of the car to check the engine in the dark. Robinson was killed when a passing car failed to spot him on the side of the road.

This is a photo of the view from a car at nighttime.Recent research has shown that pedestrians tend to underestimate how visible they are to drivers at night; likewise, motorists overestimate their own accuracy at spotting pedestrians in the dark.

Researchers have repeatedly demonstrated that drivers’ ability…


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‘Inoculating’ Against Road Rage

PAFF_081215_InoculatingRoadRage_newsfeaturePeople’s inability to contain their explosive anger behind the wheel has led to stabbings, beatings, shootings, and fatal crashes. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety reported that, “at least 1,500 people a year are seriously injured or killed in senseless traffic disputes.”

In some cases, road rage is essentially the result of cognitive distortions, and there are promising evidence-based interventions that teach aggressive drivers to recognize that dysfunctional thinking, as researchers Christine Wickens, Robert Mann, and David Wiesenthal pointed out in Current Directions in Psychological Science.

One new intervention against road rage comes from a team of psychological scientists led by Yori Gidron of the Free University of Brussels. Gidron and his colleagues attempted to “psychologically inoculate” drivers from the cognitive distortions that lead to aggressive driving.

Psychological inoculation, a technique that has been researched in many domains of public health,…


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Hidden Cameras Make Safer Drivers

PAFF_080515_SpeedCameras_newsfeatureLove them or hate them, a new study finds that speed cameras really do help stop drivers from speeding—particularly when the camera is hidden.

Drivers may not appreciate getting a ticket, but speeding is one of the biggest contributors to traffic fatalities. Statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration cite speeding as a factor in 29 percent of motor vehicle crash deaths in the United States.

Evidence suggests that speeding cameras can substantially reduce traffic collisions, including ones in which drivers are seriously injured or killed. However, research also suggests that speeding cameras can actually increase rear-end collisions in certain circumstances.

One documented issue with speed cameras—dubbed the “kangaroo effect”—is that drivers tend to slow down as they approach a speeding camera, and then speed up again after they’ve passed it. This can then increase rear-end collisions as drivers slow down…


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Bike Visibility Does Little to Change Drivers’ Dangerous Overtaking

A recent bill in the state of Wyoming would require all bicyclists to wear no less than 200 square inches “of high-visibility fluorescent orange, green or pink color clothing visible from the front and rear of the bicycle.”

PAFF_073115_ReflectiveClothingBikes_newsfeatureThough lawmakers in favor the bill argued that the new wardrobe requirements were for bicyclists’ own safety, research on driver behavior doesn’t necessarily back this up. In fact, new research is showing that “high-vis” clothing is not as effective at increasing bicycle safety as is often assumed.

A study by University of Bath psychological scientist Ian Walker finds that high-visibility clothing is unlikely to prevent the most dangerous passing behavior from drivers. Around 1–2% of overtakes were within 50 cm (about 18 inches) of the rider regardless of what he wore, implying a small proportion of motorists’ passes will always be dangerously close regardless…


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