Driving thrills combat boredom

January 4, 2011, Newcastle University

(PhysOrg.com) -- Boredom is provoking as many as a third of drivers to take unnecessary risks at the wheel, a new study has found.

Researchers at Newcastle University found that who didn’t find the highways taxing enough were more prone to speeding or overtaking as they sought excitement. As a result the researchers suggest that making roads more complicated by building in more obstacles could actually make them safer.

The study of 1,563 drivers published today in Transportation Planning and Technology, highlights to planners that efforts to make roads safer could unintentionally provoke more accidents as people may take risks to liven up their journey.

Edmund King, president of the AA and Visiting Professor of Transport at Newcastle University said: “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 people are finding the pleasure of driving has become rather a chore. With that comes an increase in the risks drivers take as they mentally switch-off instead of focussing on the road.”

In the study all drivers were put into four groups. The first category, made up of nearly a third of drivers (31%) included those who are “easily bored, nervous and dangerous” – those more likely to have an accident. While, perhaps unsurprisingly, more younger drivers came into this category, more women were also found to be in this group looking for driving thrills.

The largest group, making up 35% of the driving population, are described as “enthusiastic”. The Newcastle University researchers found that they were less likely to have a crash because they find driving more challenging or intrinsically interesting. This kind of motorist enjoys driving, is calmer and  is therefore less likely to have an accident.

More than one in five drivers (21%) were found to “drive slowly and dislike driving”. While unlikely to get fined for speeding they also drove the least. The smallest group - just 13% of motorists - were labelled as “safe and slow”. Admitting to driving slowly in cities, they were also most positive about life in general.

Lead researcher Dr. Joan Harvey said: “It would be nice to think that we could train people to be better drivers but we think that those people who would most benefit from training are the least likely to take part. So we’ve considered the other options and contrary to what you might expect when driving, hazards can actually increase our attention to the road so this may well be the way forward for planners.

"We may need to start considering some radical schemes such as putting bends back into roads or introducing the concept of shared space as it would force motorists to think about their driving and pedestrians to think about cars."

The Newcastle research team, including Dr. Neil Thorpe and Simon Heslop, asked 1,563 UK drivers aged 17-years-old upwards to complete a questionnaire about their style and personality. They were also asked to estimate the speed they would drive on four different road types. This information formed the basis for identifying clusters of people as drivers based on their levels. These boredom-based clusters were then compared in terms of age, sex, personality, attitude, emotions and accident and offence data.

Explore further: Hazards on the road ahead

More information: Academic paper: The categorisation of drivers in relation to boredom, J. Harvey, et al. Published in Transportation Planning and Technology. www.informaworld.com/smpp/cont … 850139~frm=titlelink

Related Stories

Hazards on the road ahead

July 25, 2007

Learner drivers are being invited to test how good — or bad — they are at spotting potential hazards on the road, with the help of University of Nottingham researchers.

Risky driving puts P-platers at high danger of crash

July 23, 2009

Australia's largest study of young drivers has shown that risky driving habits are putting young drivers at a significantly increased risk of crashing, irrespective of their perceptions about road safety. The study surveyed ...

Bad driving habits start early

June 9, 2005

A new study will investigate whether children learn driving habits from their parents, years before they get behind the wheel.

Family and friends set the speedo

December 11, 2006

If your family and friends approve of speeding, then chances are you are more likely to plant your foot on the accelerator, a study by Queensland University of Technology has found.

Anxiety is a killer distraction on our roads

June 1, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- Driving while stressed can be as distracting and dangerous as talking on your mobile phone, according to a study by Queensland University of Technology (QUT).

Recommended for you

Study sheds new light on ancient human-turkey relationship

January 17, 2018

For the first time, research has uncovered the origins of the earliest domestic turkeys in ancient Mexico. The study also suggests turkeys weren't only prized for their meat—with demand for the birds soaring with the Mayans ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

not rated yet Jan 04, 2011
D'uh, if the drive is 'boring', that just means you can push your 'tracking zone' out further and spot incoming idjits sooner...

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.