New study finds drivers who follow a friend take more risks

A fear of getting lost means drivers take risks and drive more dangerously

A new study released yesterday, has found that drivers who follow behind a friend in their car take more risks and drive dangerously because they’re scared of getting lost.
According to the study, which has been published in the open-access journal Frontiers in Psychology, motorists following another driver on a journey tend to drive too fast and carry out more erratic turns in order to keep up.
Scientific proof has been provided which shows how motorists following another car to a destination are more than likely going to drive dangerously.

A fear of getting lost means drivers take risks and drive more dangerously

New study finds drivers who follow a friend take more risks © Copyright Hugh Venables and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

The research was undertaken at the Arizona State University in the US by Professor Robert Gray and his team. They found that when a driver follows another car, it can lead to the person in the vehicle behind driving more dangerously – they drive faster, make more erratic turns and drive too close to the car in front.
Professor Gray said that the study came about following a court case in which he was analysing an accident where the driver was seriously injured as a result of a ‘following a friend’ incident.
No research could be found by Professor Gray about the dangers of ‘following a friend’ despite many people having a hunch that it can be dangerous.
The US team carried out driving simulation tests using students with a full driving licence. Firstly they drove in what was a simulated city to give the team an idea what their driving behaviour was like.
Secondly, the students drove with the help of a navigation system and then the scenario of ‘following a friend’ was introduced and driving behaviour compared.
As part of the test, general speed was observed as well as distance to the car in front and how long it took for the driver to change lanes. A number of hazards were thrown in to see if their driving behaviour changed when challenged with different driving scenarios.
“We observed changes in behaviour that increased the likelihood of being involved in an accident,” said Professor Gray.
The team found that when drivers ‘followed a friend’ they tended to drive faster and in a more erratic way, also driving closer to the car in front and changing lanes quicker compared to how they drove when in normal circumstances or with the help of a sat nav system.
Once hazards were introduced in the ‘following a friend’ scenario, drivers were more likely to rush through the lights as they were turning red and cut in front of someone waiting to cross the road.
Professor Gray made it clear that the leading driver in the simulation tests and any other vehicles drove to the laws of the road, ensuring the driver behind was not simply copying the bad driving habits of another road user.
To conclude, Professor Gray advises drivers ‘following a friend’ to know in advance the destination they are travelling too, making sure they have the address the lead driver is heading for and the right equipment to help find it yourself.
“In the future, we plan to investigate whether some knowledge about the location of the destination can get rid of these dangerous effects,” added Professor Gray.
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