Where Drivers Dont Mean To Speed

21 November 2014 - By Eugene Herbert - The RAC Group

Hi Folks…

While researching information on the psychology associated with people who habitually do wrong things and more specifically, in an inappropriate situation, I came across the following material.

Rather than dilute the impact of it by commenting on the content I would prefer to share it in an un-edited version – and NO it doesn’t mean that we agree with the actions. It rather helps us understand why it happens, which in turn could assist in managing those situations better or differently!!!

Be sure to follow the links - there is additional material there.

Till next time – Drive Safely and when you pass a school think on how you could ensure that YOU slow down!!!

Eugene Herbert

Group Managing Director

The RAC Group


 Most drivers recognize the need to observe a lower speed in school zones, so why do many still break the limit?

Blaming motorists for their speeding may at times be undeserved. We have recently shown that, rather than intentional wrong-doing by drivers, cognitive factors can explain speeding behavior.

Policies and enforcement measures to tackle speeding rely on the idea that driving too fast is always intended by drivers as a result of their attitudes (lack of consideration of the possible consequences) and their willingness to act inappropriately. But speeding is not always a deliberate action.

School zone risks require lower speed limits

It is standard across Australia to find variable speed limits within school precincts. At times when children are travelling to and from school, a substantially lower limit applies, usually reducing a general urban speed limit to 25-40 km/h in the school zone.

It is important for drivers to comply with lower speed limits within school zones given the increased activity by pedestrians (especially children) in these areas. This creates increased risks and greater consequences of a collision involving pedestrians.

Despite this, speeding in school zones remains common. In response to the “significant risks associated with low-range speeding”, police and policymakers have relied on enforcement, harsher penalties and education to reduce speeding behavior. However, in school zones this often does not work.

Why might drivers speed in school zones?

We argue that drivers may recognize that they are in a school zone and slow down at the entry point when they see the speed limit signage and signals, but they forget to drive slowly as they transit the entire school precinct.

So how do drivers forget they’re in a school zone? We tend to think of memory as the recollection of past events, but memory also plays a part in planning and deciding on future behavior. This is prospective memory – the memory for future intentions – and it is very important for our everyday lives.

But prospective memory is not fool proof. Errors can occur where individuals forget to perform an intended task. Typically this happens when the “normal” flow or sequence of behavior is interrupted.

A failure to remember to complete an intended behavior can have serious, unsafe consequences. For example, in commercial aviation interruptions to pre-flight procedures and subsequent prospective memory errors have been shown to contribute to planes crashing. Mid-procedure disruptions have resulted in physicians leaving instruments or sponges in patients following surgery.

We propose that if drivers are speeding within a school zone, their behavior may be the result of a failure of prospective memory caused by some interruption. A major interruption in some school zones occurs when drivers are required to stop at traffic light intersections. Traffic light “interruptions” may lead to prospective memory error in the following ways:

The ‘green means go’ signal may cause some drivers to resume travelling at their usual speed.

Because of the relative abruptness of the traffic light change from green to amber to red, drivers may have little opportunity to encode the future intention to resume travelling at the reduced school zone speed limit. This memory error can be further promoted if additional distractions attract attention – for example, pedestrian movements or the presence of other vehicles, as well as in-car events such as a radio broadcast or conversation with a passenger. Prospective memory suffers when attention is divided.

Cues in the environment that are associated with the resumption of driving – for example, the change from red to a green traffic light, a clear path ahead to continue their journey – may lead an individual to accelerate to the speed at which they would typically drive when school zone hours do not apply. The driver has simply failed to recall the need to resume the interrupted and deferred task of driving at the lower speed limit.

On driving resumption, there are scant cues in the environment to prompt memory retrieval for the deferred task of travelling at a reduced speed. If the route is regularly travelled, the available cues probably suggest habitual driving at the usual (non-school zone) speed.

What did the study find?

We found that when a driver was able to choose the speed at which they travelled – that is, where the road was clear and there were no vehicles ahead to slow them down – then if they had been interrupted by stopping at a red traffic light, they resumed driving at higher speeds. These speeds related to the normal speed limit, rather than the temporary lower limit.

When there was no traffic light interruption, drivers progressed through the school zone at slower speeds, which were closer to the school zone limit.

When we placed a reminder cue after the traffic light – simply signage featuring twin amber flashing lights and a sign “Check Speed” – then drivers were able to correct (or fully avoid) a prospective memory error. The driving speeds on resumption were fully compliant with the school speed limit.

What this research means

We are not arguing that it is invalid to treat speeding behavior as an intentional act. A number of researchers have found that drivers do deliberately and consciously intend to speed.

What we are arguing is that, in some circumstances, the way the road infrastructure is designed may encourage and prompt motorists to engage in otherwise avoidable illegal speeding behavior. We have shown that such a phenomenon can occur when traffic lights interrupt drivers in school zones.

Drivers appear not to notice their behavior. But if reminded to think about their speed, they adopt a correct, safe speed.

The same cognitive process may also apply in circumstances where drivers fail to slow at speed cameras sites, at road works sites or in the transition from rural to urban speed zones.   


Other Articles

  • Driving Resolutions

  • Running red lights -Fatalities Reach 10-Year High in the US

  • Africa Trave Guide

  • Drivers in SUVs more dangerous

  • Driving through roadworks

  • Culture drives policy

  • Strict speed enforcement detrimental to safety?

  • Dodge the pothole

  • Speed doesn’t cause crashes ?

  • Avoiding a rear-end collision

  • Seatbelt check list

  • Passengers put your feet up…or not

  • The ripple effect of your driving behaviour

  • Consequences of drinking and driving

  • Driving tired – the dangers!

  • Driving in work zones

  • Driving after dark

  • Tips: Fake phones for driver safety?

  • Do drivers know how to keep a safe following distance?

  • Study reveals women are the angriest drivers

  • Driving With a Pet in the Vehicle

  • Keys Left in Vehicles Spurring More Thefts

  • Public Protector

  • The Risks of Eating and Driving

  • Cognitive Psychology and Vehicle Speed

  • Animal Collisions

  • Young Drivers Over-Estimate Their Abilities

  • Driving for Better Business

  • Parallel Parking No Fuss, No Drama

  • Profiling Driver Risk

  • Back-to-School Driving Advice

  • Drowsy Driving Persists as Fatal Crash Cause

  • Tailgating

  • How you drive reveals a lot about your personality

  • Understanding the Zipper Merge

  • Prevalence of Self-Reported Aggressive Driving Behaviour

  • Warning: Pokemon Go, Another Distraction…

  • Are parents negatively impacting learner drivers?

  • How fast are your reactions?

  • Self-Driving Cars Raise Ethical Issues

  • Multi-Tasking In The Car - A Myth

  • Driving After Dark

  • Airtravel vs. Road use

  • How to Conduct Efficient Vehicle Inspections

  • The Three Life-Saving Questions

  • How to Prevent Rear-End Collisions

  • Driving with limited visibility

  • Look twice for motocycles

  • Keeping Your Children Safe From Distracted Driving Crashes

  • Being Driving Focussed

  • Distracted Driving fuels insurance rate hikes

  • Adjusting to the time change

  • Pothole Definition

  • Buckling up in the back seat

  • Weather-related Traffic Deaths - What studies show...

  • Reversing Tips

  • Elements of a safety program

  • One-In-Seven Suffer Memory Gaps When Driving

  • NTSB Most Critical

  • Will self-driving cars allow for drinking and driving?

  • The Impact of Fossil Fuels

  • Driver Safety 101

  • Head Restraints Cut Injuries by 11%

  • Traffic Fatalities Up in First Half of 2015

  • Car Lock-in "Heads Up"

  • Is drunk driving OK when the alternative may be worse?

  • Distracted Driving Detection Technology

  • Driver Distractions Extend 27 Seconds beyond Act

  • Drunk Driving - South Africa rated the worst

  • When Flash Floods Strike

  • What to watch out for on Rural Roads

  • Self-Parking Technology Avoided

  • Are you and your family breaking the law?

  • Work Related Driving Time

  • Safety near Bicyclist

  • Human Error

  • Aircon Saves Fuel

  • Fuel Prices Down - Efficient Driving Still Needed

  • Managing Space & Time for Safe Driving

  • Driverless Cars

  • 7 Tips for Curbing Distracted Driving

  • Parental Role Modelling

  • Braced for Impact

  • 7 Advances in Automotive Safety Technology That Could Save Your Life

  • 8 out 10 Drivers Exceed Factory Posted Fuel Consumption Figures

  • Driving into the sunset isn't always Romantic

  • Do you know your drivers? Do they know you?

  • Study: 25% of Cars Create Most Air Pollution

  • Hands-Free Infotainment Isnt Risk Free, Safety Council Warns

  • Ten Things All Car Drivers Should Know About Motorcycles

  • Legislation Update: Baby seats

  • Female Drivers More Likely to Use Cell Phones

  • Roundabouts Safer for Older Drivers

  • Unpacking the Ministers Collision

  • Dealing with the Aftermath of Potholes

  • How to Avoid Parking Lot Crashes

  • Mobile Pone Distraction set to become Biggest Kllre on British Roads by 2015

  • Light Commercial Vehicles can be Low on Safety

  • Saving lives: Improved vehicle designs bring down death rates

  • China To Improve Road Safety To Protect Lives

  • Top Ten Tips To Stay Within The Limit

  • Dealing with Agressive Driving

  • Top 10 Accident Prone Professions

  • National Impaired Driving Prevention Month

  • Maintaining Perspective - Deaths by Terrorism in 2013

  • Where Drivers Dont Mean To Speed

  • Circles, Circles and more circles

  • Calm your Driving

  • Sharing the Highway with Heavy Trucks

  • Pedestrian Safety

  • Abuse of Cell Phones Taken More Seriously

  • 5 Steps to Keep your Child Safe

  • Driving While Medicated

  • Hands On Steering

  • Scanning the Road

  • Prevent being blinded by Sun Glare

  • Link Discovered Between Driver Obesity & Crash Risk

  • A Third of Young Drivers Admit Taking 'Selfies' at the Wheel

  • How to Prevent 'UFO's' in your Vehicle