Study Suggest Talking To Yourself While Driving May Prevent Accidents

F.J. Thomas

Sarasota, FL ( – Organizations trying to prevent motor vehicle crashes might want to tell employees talk to themselves while driving. A new study suggests that not only is the idea not so crazy, but could actually prevent collisions.

The UK study, published in PLOS ONE, was based on research conducted by professionals from the University of Nottingham, Nottingham, England, United Kingdom. The results suggested that it may not necessarily be inattention that causes traffic accidents, but a glitch in short-term memory that could potentially be at fault. In other words, a driver may see an oncoming vehicle or motorcycle, but his short-term memory malfunctions and he forgets he ever saw the vehicle.

The study used a BMW Mini, which allows for a 360-degree unblocked view, for the three experiments conducted in a simulator. When a motorcycle was approaching, the study found that between 13 and 18 percent of the time the driver failed to report the vehicle – even after clearly focusing on the moving object. “What we think is that the car driver is actually seeing the bike, but forgetting it by the time they pull out,” said Associate Professor Peter Chapman, the author.

Experiment number 1 involved 30 drivers at a crossroad intersection where the drivers did not have the right of way. The test included 9 target trials and 3 general traffic trials. Drivers had to verbally indicate what vehicles they saw with a laser pointer. Drivers’ eye movements were tracked, and a camera was also on top of the vehicle.

Drivers failed to report one of the two oncoming vehicles on 7.4 percent of trials (20 occasions). Of those, 70 percent were motorcycles. Additionally, drivers underestimated the visual angle of oncoming vehicles.

The second study showed that drivers could fail to report vehicles even when pulling out in front of them. Additionally, there was an underestimate of vehicle location.

The third study replicated the second study but added eye-tracking glasses to obtain accurate eye fixation information. Sixteen drivers failed to report a motorcycle, and 3 drivers failed to report a car. Of the 16 that failed to report the motorcycle, 5 drivers failed to fixate on the oncoming object. The remaining 11 drivers had focused on the motorcycle for at least 60ms.

Using a strategy of ‘Perceive Retain Choose‘ (PRC), the study theorizes that drivers should talk to themselves to remember what they saw. In other words, if a driver saw a motorbike, they should say “bike” out loud as they see the motorcycle to help their memory retain what they have seen.

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