Many have claimed for decades that forcing drivers to endlessly stare at speedometers to avoid creeping over the limit by as little as 1km/h reduces a driver’s capacity to watch where they are going.
And now the University Of Western Australia - a state with some of the strictest speed enforcement programs in Australia - has sought to back these claims.
The study focused on driver distraction against various levels of speed enforcement.
A group of 84 volunteers was asked to drive in a simulator, while the research team measured their reaction to red dots that appeared randomly in their peripheral vision.
The group was divided by the research team, with some told that the speed tolerance was 11km/h, others told it was 6km/h, and the rest told it was just 1km/h. The chosen speed limit was 50km/h.
Researchers noted a much greater level of concentration to the surrounding environment from the 11km/h group, which was much more likely to notice the red pointers.
Predictably, the 1km/h group was more focused on the speedometer, scoring a poorer result with the peripheral vision test.
"There can be a perception that by making it stricter you're only going to get benefits, like you'll get everyone driving more slowly and more safely," Lead researcher Dr Vanessa Bowden said, speaking with the ABC.
"[But] you can't necessarily make drivers pay more attention to the speed and go more slowly without taking their attention away from some other critical aspect of driving."
Dr Bowden said the study found drivers were “using up” their mental capacity on speed monitoring, taking their focus away from the “world around them”.
Further, drivers were asked to complete a questionnaire following the testing procedure, with those driving under the strictest speed enforcement reporting higher levels of stress.
The study will now move into a new phase, focusing on hazard perception with the same speed-enforcement parameters.
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