Most drivers are well-aware of the dangers of distracted driving, particularly texting while driving. Another driving habit is now in the spotlight, and while most of us would assume it is completely harmless, in fact, serious car accidents can arise from the erratic, dangerous driving which occurs when one friend follows another. The Arizona State University engaged in a study which found that following a friend leads to unsafe driving behavior more often than not.
The problem is the person in the back typically is following the person in the front because he or she does not know where they are going. Consequently, as a response to the fear of getting lost, the rear driver may drive far too closely to the front vehicle, and could drive erratically, drive too fast, and even run a red light simply to ensure they don’t “lose” the driver in front.
Researcher, Robert Gray, a Professor in Human Systems Engineering, recruited ASU students to participate in a simulated driving test. The students were first asked to drive anywhere they wanted in a simulated city to document their basic driving behaviors. Those basic driving behaviors were then compared to the same students driving with GPS, and driving when asked to “follow a friend.” General speed, distance to the car in front, and the time it took these drivers to switch lanes, as well as other driving behaviors were evaluated. Hazards were even placed in the drivers’ way, to determine whether the drivers drove differently when placed in various driving scenarios.
Dr. Gray said that the behavioral changes seen when one driver was asked to follow another definitely increased erratic driving behaviors. Those drivers who followed a friend not only consistently exceeded the speed limit, they also tailgated and made unannounced lane changes, and, overall, drove much more dangerously than when they followed a GPS or even randomly drove on their own. Professor Gray was quick to note that in the simulation, neither the leader nor the other vehicles around them broke any traffic laws. This was to ensure the follower was not simply imitating risky driving behaviors in the front driver or the drivers around them.
In fact, the so-called “contagious effect” was entirely negated by using a computerized driving simulation. If you happen to be faced with a situation in which you are asked to follow a friend, the safest way to do so is to make sure you have the address in your GPS, so you can actually get there on your own should you “lose” the car in front. Because distracted driving of any kind can result in an auto accident, it is important that you pay attention to your driving and avoid distracted driving behaviors such as cell phone use, eating, programming a GPS, listening to the radio and changing stations, turning around to check on the children, or talking to another passenger in the vehicle.
Auto accidents can even be caused when a driver is daydreaming or watching something happened on the side of the road, rather than focusing entirely on their driving. Some studies have found that having children in the vehicle with you is extremely distracting, and having a baby in the car is even more distracting. Parents with children tended to spend a significant amount of time watching the children in their rear-view mirror, or turning around to pick up a toy or a bottle for a baby or child.
If you have been injured in an accident caused by a distracted driver, it is important that you contact an experienced Denver personal injury attorney as quickly as possible. Contact the law firm of Fuicelli & Lee, PC, for a free case evaluation. You pay nothing unless you receive a financial settlement or award. Call our office at 303-355-7202 or fill out our confidential contact form.
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