This is interesting – evidence seems to be emerging to suggest that straight roads and plush, gadget-laden cars are actually making driving a more dangerous pursuit.
Driving, for many people, is boring enough. We’ve all been there – stuck in first gear in nose-to-tail traffic, with cramp quickly developing in your left leg and the cooling fan constantly whirring into action to give your tired, hot and bothered engine some temporary respite.
Driving can also be a yawn-inducing affair, says a new study from Newcastle University, if the roads are clear but offer nothing to keep the driver’s attention. The major culprit here is the motorway – miles upon miles of arrow-straight, marble-smooth tarmac that purely exists to give the shortest available route from A to B and is as interesting to negotiate as raw potatoes are to eat.
The experts are now suggesting that more needs to be done to prevent drivers doing stupid things to try and pep up dull journeys. Prime suspects in these scenarios include overtaking other cars in a dangerous manner and driving at excess speeds, which of course can lead to potentially fatal road accidents.
The study, published today in Transportation Planning and Technology, questioned more than 1500 drivers. The respondents, divided into four groups, answered a range of questions about their ‘boredom attitudes and perceptions’ and the findings gave the researchers the impression that safer roads “could unintentionally provoke more accidents as people may take risks to liven up their journey.”
One suggestion for the alleviation of this potential problem revolves around the idea of ‘shared spaces,’ where constant distractions such as traffic lights and unnecessary road signage, which often mean that motorists are paying more attention to peripheral matters rather than watching where they’re actually driving, are removed.
One such example of such a project succeeding, reports admiral.com, is Ashford in Kent, where in December 2009 it was claimed that the shared space had not only improved safety and lowered average speeds, it had improved the appearance of the town centre as well.
A second method of livening up roads could be the introduction into straight roads of jut-out islands and bends to keep drivers entertained and to force them to pay more attention.
These ideas have the support of no less than AA chief Edmund King, who also thinks that cars have become too cushioned an environment:
“As cars come fitted with more gadgets to make driving easier and planners remove more of the distractions, it comes as no surprise to me that drivers are finding the pleasure of driving has become rather a chore,” he says.