Have you ever traveled through a school zone and spent more time looking at your speedometer than the road ahead?
Have you thought 'This can't be good - I should be looking where I'm going"?
A recent study by researchers at the University of Western Australia has raised concerns that strict speed enforcement could have a detrimental impact on road safety because drivers are dedicating more attention to monitoring their speed than detecting hazards.
The researchers used a driving simulator to test whether reducing the speed enforcement thresholds would impact on a driver's mental and visual abilities. 84 participants were told they could be fined for driving 1 km/h, 6 km/h or 11 km/h over a 50 km/h speed limit and the researchers measured their response to small red dots which appeared in their peripheral vision.
The study found those who were given a 1 km/h threshold were less likely to detect objects outside their immediate line of sight.
An aspect that was not reported in the study is how long it takes the human eye to readjust to the different light and focal length conditions associated with changing focus from the speedometer to the road outside.
All of this supports the view that it is better to create slow speed environments outside schools through environmental features than to rely on strict enforcement. Drivers will travel at low speeds when everything outside tells them that slow speed is appropriate.
David Wilkins, Principal & Senior Traffic Engineer.