Challenging roads may decrease driver boredom: study

Researchers at Newcastle University in the UK believe making roads more complicated and building in more obstacles could actually make them safer.
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The study, ‘The categorisation of drivers in relation to boredom’, found that drivers who did not feel challenged or engaged by their cars and the roads were more prone to speeding and overtaking to seek excitement.

Lead researcher, Dr Joan Harvey, said changes to vehicles and roads may be a better way to reduce boredom behind the wheel than additional driver education.

“It would be nice to think that we could train people to be better drivers but we think that those people who would most benefit from training are the least likely to take part,” Dr Harvey said.“So we’ve considered the other options and contrary to what you might expect when driving, hazards can actually increase our attention to the road so this may well be the way forward for planners.“We may need to start considering some radical schemes such as putting bends back into roads or introducing the concept of shared space as it would force motorists to think about their driving and pedestrians to think about cars.”

Dr Harvey’s team worked in collaboration with the Newcastle University School of Psychology and the Transport Operations Research Group and, based on a study of 1563 drivers, placed all motorists into four groups.

The first was those who are “easily bored, nervous and dangerous”. This group made up 31 percent of the test’s sample and was comprised largely of younger drivers and women. The study said this group was the one most looking for driving thrills on the road, and was the most likely to become involved in accidents.

The largest group was the “enthusiastic” drivers, those who find driving more of a challenge and intrinsically interesting. This group accounted for 35 percent of those tested. These motorists enjoy driving and are calmer behind the wheel and are less likely to have a crash.

A further 21 percent of participants were placed in the “drive slowly and dislike driving” category. They drive the least and are less likely to get fined for speeding.

The final group was those who drive “safe and slow”. This 13 percent of the test sample admitted to driving slow in the city, but also had the most positive outlook on life.