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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Smoking Up Behind the Wheel Linked to Risky Driving While Sober

PAFF_081414_DrivingCannabis_newsfeatureDriving under the influence of drugs or alcohol has been tied in previous studies to other dangerous driving behaviors, like speeding and dangerous overtaking, but research investigating the relationship between cannabis and risk of car accidents has produced contradictory results.

Psychological scientists Isabelle Richer and Jacques Bergeron of the University of Montreal looked at whether those who drive while under the influence of cannabis are more likely to engage in risky and aggressive driving behaviors in general.

An all-male group of 75 participants was given a questionnaire asking about their driving habits, cannabis use, and history of car accidents. Participants then went through a series of tests in a driving simulator.

In one of the driving simulation tasks, participants were told that they had to make it to a meeting on time. They then drove behind an “intelligent vehicle” that was programmed…


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The Common Cold May Be a Traffic Hazard

This is a picture of a man blowing into a tissue.Fatigue is quickly becoming recognized as one of the most dangerous driving impairments. But that drowsiness is not just the product of sleep deprivation or over-exertion. Sluggishness resulting from the common cold can also hamper driving abilities.

Psychologists Andrew Paul Smith and Samantha Jamson of Cardiff University wanted to investigate if individuals with a cold performed poorly on simulated driving tasks.

The researchers conducted a two part, divided-attention test on 25 English college students. These volunteers were split into either a “Healthy” or “Colds” sample based on the self-assessed severity of their cold symptoms.

The first test measured how often participants would miscalculate collisions of geometric shapes coming from random directions and speeds on a screen. The students were also instructed to press a foot pedal if those geometric shapes matched those…


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Cognitive Factors May Predict the Need for Speed

PAFF_0729_SpeedingBehavior_newsfeatureDriving over the speed limit is the most common violation drivers make and one of the biggest contributors to traffic crashes. Speeding is estimated to have contributed to 30% of all fatal automobile crashes in the US, resulting in 10,219 deaths in 2012 alone.

Considering the very real dangers of speeding, why do some of us do it so often?

Psychological scientists Mark A. Elliott and James A. Thomson of the University of Strathclyde used a cognitive framework called the Theory of Planned Behavior to examine the various cognitive factors, beliefs, and social pressures that might explain why people regularly speed, despite the dangers of getting a ticket or even causing a fatal accident, and predict future speeding behavior.

Elliott and Thomson mailed a questionnaire to drivers from across England who had received a speeding ticket in the past four months. A…


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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.



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