Would Motorcyclists Be Safer If There Were More of Them?

This is a photo of a person riding a motorcycle.There’s no question that motorcycles pose a particularly potent hazard on the roadways. Bikers are up to 30 times more likely to experience a deadly accident on the road than drivers of passenger cars, according to US government statistics. And more than half of motorcyclist deaths involve at least one other vehicle.

One of the primary reasons that motorcyclists are so vulnerable to traffic accidents may be their paucity, according to a recently published study.

Psychological scientist Vanessa Beanland of Australian National University and her colleagues found evidence that car-and-truck drivers don’t notice bikes because they encounter relatively few of them on the road.

Beanland and her research team used a driving simulator to test 40 adults on their ability to detect and respond to two types of vehicles: motorcycles and buses.

The…

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Investigating the Siren Song of Mobile Devices in the Car

The vast majority of U.S. states ban motorists from texting while driving, and at least a dozen bar even voice conversations over a handheld device. Similar prohibitions are being enacted around the world.

But so far they haven’t made a substantial dent in distracted driving.

This is a photo of a woman talking on the phone while driving.At any given moment during the day in the United States, approximately 660,000 drivers are using a handheld communications device instead of concentrating on the road, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

So why do so many of us ignore the dangers of texting or chatting on the phone when we’re behind the wheel?

The answer may lie in the fact that, as numerous studies have shown, motorists spend more time responding to incoming calls and texts than actually initiating them. Science suggests…

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How People Perceive ‘Driving Gone Green’

164471115More than 405,000 fully electric vehicles (EVs) are on the road worldwide this year, according to a recent report from a German renewable energy company. That may not seem like many – after all, there are over 1 billion cars in the world. But that number is fully double the number of EVs that were on the road just 2 years ago.

Despite what seems to be a burgeoning market for plug-and-play vehicles, misinformation and stereotypes about the cars have proved a major impediment for manufacturers.

Researchers from Oxford Brookes University in the United Kingdom recently investigated public perceptions of electric cars by surveying 55 EV drivers. These participants were part of an on-going project in which they were given an electric car for 6-12 months and were required to report back on a variety of questionnaires and interviews.

After 3 months…

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Coaching Senior Drivers

174432930With older people facing as high a risk of car crashes as teens, some states and provinces now test older drivers with the aim of getting the riskiest motorists off the road.

But the tests they use are inadequate, says cognitive psychologist Normand Teasdale of Université Laval in Québec. Some governments only test vision; others test cognition, too. In some cases, on-the-road tests also are required.

But none of these tests is enough—they lack accuracy, sensitivity and specificity. To drive effectively, you not only have to be able to see, hear, and think about what’s going on—you also have to be able to turn this sensory input into the right action, like stepping on the brake when you see a red light ahead of you (instead of stepping on the gas by mistake.)

Older drivers could benefit from training programs that put…

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Navigating the Brain’s GPS

166667787More than a decade ago, researchers discovered that London taxi drivers, who have to navigate one of the most byzantine street grids in the world, have atypical brain characteristics. Specifically, the posterior hippocampi—a brain region associated with spatial memory—are larger compared to other people, scientists found.

A new study offers some explanation for this phenomenon. The findings pinpoint the precise brain regions used in navigation, and in doing so change how scientists believed we use our brain to find our way around.

Previously, researchers had disagreed over whether the brain calculates a route or calculates the straight-line to a destination. The new research shows that both ideas are correct.

The study, according to lead scientist Hugo Spiers, indicates that our internal GPS ability is more complex than previously recognized, calculating two types of distance in separate areas of the brain. At the…

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