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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When It Comes To Driving, Most People Think Their Skills are Above Average

If you ask someone to rate their driving skills on a one to 10 scale, there’s a good chance they’ll give themselves an above-average rating like a 7. PAFF_082514_AverageDrivingMOTR_newsfeature

Psychological scientists Michael M. Roy of Elizabethtown College and Michael J. Liersch of New York University found that although people may rate themselves as above average, they don’t think others would quite agree. Across four experiments, Roy and Liersch found that people often believed that others would rate them as a worse driver (about 10% worse) than they rated themselves.

Because there is no standard definition for “good driving,” people tend to use their own unique, individual definitions. So, a slow and cautious driver could have a totally different definition of “good driving” than someone who likes to drive fast and aggressively.

“For a portion of drivers, their ability to text message…


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Bicyclists Beware: The Psychology of Car-Bike Crash Risks

With bike-sharing programs in more than 500 cities worldwide accounting for a combined fleet of over 500,000 bicycles, cars are increasingly sharing urban streets with bicycles.PAFF_082114_BikesCarsMOTR_newsfeature

When crashes between bikes and cars occur they are often particularly dangerous for the cyclist. In 2012 alone, 722 bicyclists were killed in crashes with motor vehicles– a 6 percent increase from 2011, according to US government statistics.

To better understand the cause of crashes between cars and bikes, psychological scientists Nadine Chaurand and Patricia Delhomme of The French Institute of Science and Technology for Transport looked at differences in how cyclists and drivers perceive traffic risks.

Using an online survey, Chaurand and Delhomme asked 336 cyclists and 92 drivers to rate how likely various car-bike traffic scenarios were to cause a crash. The scenarios also included interactions between only cars, only bikes, and a car…


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