Lengthy Commutes Take a Mental Toll

PAFF_093015_CommuteMentalToll_newsfeatureThe amount of time we spend commuting between work and home can have a serious impact on our physical and mental health.

Lengthy commuting times have been linked to a wide range of health ailments, including hypertension and obesity. New research from a team of behavioral scientists has now linked time behind the wheel to lower life satisfaction.

To examine the relationship between commute time and well-being, University of Waterloo researchers Margo Hilbrecht, Bryan Smale, and Steven E. Mock analyzed data from 3,409 Canadians who regularly commuted to work by car.

Long commutes were tied to an increased sense of stressful time pressure. Essentially, long chunks of time spent on the road took time away from other stress-relieving activities, like spending time with family, exercising, and even sleeping.

“Results suggest workplace practices aimed at increasing opportunities for physical activity and government-led efforts…


Tags: , , , , , , , | No Comments »

Self-Control Competes with Memory

PAFF_092315_MemoryCompeteSelfControl_newsfeatureYou’re battling morning rush-hour traffic on the way into work, when another car swerves into your blind spot just as you’re about to switch lanes. To avoid a rear-end collision, you have to quickly switch mental gears from changing lanes to hitting the brakes.

Duke University psychological scientists Yu-Chin Chiu and Tobias Egner recently ran a series of experiments illustrating how the use of self-control to inhibit motor actions can have an unexpected influence on other cognitive processes—such as memory.

Their research suggests that shifting our attention during actions, such as a lane change, can interfere with our ability to remember details that preceded the action. That is, stopping yourself from changing lanes makes it less likely you’ll be able to recall details like the color, make, and model of the car that swerved into your blind spot.

Chiu and Egner hypothesized…


Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Waking Up to Dangers of Drowsy Driving

PAFF_090315_WakeUpDrivingSleep_newsfeatureWe need to wake up to the fact that sleep is a vital component to safe driving, says psychological scientist Frank McKenna of the University of Reading.

The link between sleep and driving safety is so strong that in a recent study McKenna found that people’s everyday bedtime routines could predict their likelihood of car crashes.

“It is clear that sleep hygiene, a measure that has no direct connection with driving, nevertheless, is able to predict crash involvement,” he writes in the European Review of Applied Psychology. “In other words, those factors that inhibit sleep quantity and or sleep quality may have important consequences for our abilities to stay safe on the road.”

For the study, 7,075 experienced drivers (4,000 men and 3,075 women) completed a series of surveys on their risky driving behaviors, such as speeding, traffic violations, and distracted driving.…


Tags: , , , , , | No Comments »

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…


Tags: , , , , , , | No Comments »

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…


Tags: , , , , , , | No Comments »