Why Driving Lessons Should Go Green

PAFF_062216_GreenDrivingLessons_newsfeatureRoad transportation accounts for around 20% of greenhouse gas emissions in the European Union, according to the European Commission. One strategy to help reduce emissions is to get bus drivers to adopt new driving behaviors to use up less fuel. But can training people in the lab actually translate to greener driving behavior on the road?

A promising new study shows that a simple behavioral intervention for bus drivers may go a long way towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Working with Pirita Niemi of the Työtehoseura organization in Finland, psychological scientists Mark J.M. Sullman and Lisa Dorn of Cranfield University in the UK designed a field experiment to see if eco-driving in the lab could lead to lasting behavior changes on the road.

A group of professional bus drivers was trained in the lab on how to use more fuel-efficient driving strategies.…


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Dynamic Dazzle Distorts Speed Perception

This is a photo of a zebra standing in front of black and white stripes.During World War I, a zoologist proposed that British warships could use the “disruptive” camouflage of zebras and leopards to confuse enemy ships. Instead of attempting to hide from view, the idea was that “razzle dazzle” patterns would make it difficult for the enemy to accurately gauge a ship’s position — misleading rather than hiding.

Although both American and British warships were painted with psychedelic zebra-stripe patterns based on this theory, it was never conclusively shown that the razzle dazzle stripes helped the ships elude enemy fire.

“[C]omplex high contrast patterns were used on ships during both World Wars with the aim of disguising properties such as the direction, size, shape, range and speed of the moving target,” the researchers write. “This so-called dazzle coloration was often a…


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Repeat Drunk Drivers and the Neurobiology of Risk

PAFF_051816_NeurobiologyDUI_newsfeature“I recognize the seriousness of this mistake. I’ve learned from this mistake and will continue learning from this mistake for the rest of my life,” said 22-time Olympic medalist Michael Phelps during his first drunk driving sentencing hearing in 2004.

Phelps was convicted of drunk driving again in 2014 after police witnessed him crossing the double yellow line while driving 84 miles per hour in a 45-mph zone. According to police records, Phelps’s blood alcohol level was nearly twice the legal limit at the time of his second DUI arrest.

Drunk driving accounts for 35-40% of all driver fatalities in Canada and the United States, and drunk driving crashes kill more than 10,000 Americans every year. One challenge to preventing these needless deaths is stopping repeat DUI offenders: An estimated 30% of DUI offenders will continue to drink and drive,…


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Are Digital Billboards Dangerously Distracting?

PAFF_05042016_BillboardGlance_newsfeatureDigital ads use bright lights, rotating images, and flashy content to get your attention, but do they take your eyes (and your mind) off the road long enough to create a hazard?

Digital billboards — dynamic, electronically illuminated, light emitting diode (LED) advertisements — are a rapidly growing section of the marketing industry. One look around Times Square and you’ll understand why: The billboards are shiny, interesting, and attention-grabbing. We often can’t help but look at them.

On the road, these advertising structures stand far above the ground, rotating through ads approximately every 8–10 seconds and marketing various companies, organizations, and products in a single space. These digital billboards are inventive and visually attractive — so much that they may cause drivers to take their eyes off the road.

A team from the New England University Transportation Center & MIT AgeLab recently…


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Negative People are More Dangerous Drivers

PAFF_041316_NegativeDrivers_newsfeatureNeurotic, negative people – think Larry David or George Costanza – are more dangerous behind the wheel, according to new research from the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing.

Previous research has found a correlation between angry and neurotic personalities, aggression, and an increased incidence of car crashes. But little research has investigated exactly why this is the case. To answer this question, psychological scientist Jing Chai and colleagues examined the brains and behavior of a group of dangerous drivers with a history of traffic violations and crashes.

“Dangerous drivers were found to have higher anger and anxiety traits, but no research has explored whether dangerous drivers process emotional information differently than safe drivers do,” the researchers explain. “Exploring the relationship between dangerous driving and emotional information processing could help us understand the cognitive processing of dangerous drivers.”

One explanation for why…


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