Low speed thresholds are turning motorists, particularly motorcyclists, into dangerous speedo gazers, according to a university study.
Using drive simulators, researchers at the University of Western Australia studied 84 drivers to test whether a low speed threshold before a fine was imposed affected their driving performance.
The answer was yes!
“Our results demonstrate that making the enforcement threshold for speeding stricter can reduce drivers’ available cognitive and visual resources, and increase their subjective workload,” the research finds.
In other words, the possibility you could be fined for going just a few kilometres over the speed limit is turning us into dangerous speedo gazers.
And motorcyclists could be among the worst, according to lead researcher Dr Vanessa Bowden.
“We didn’t specifically look at motorcycles in our study, but I would agree that having the speedo further away or more difficult to see (than in a car) would likely add extra demand for riders,” she says.
The study recruited 84 participants who were told they could be fined for driving one, six or 11km/h hour over in a 50km/h zone.
It measured their response to small red dots which appeared in their peripheral vision.
The result was worst with a low threshold than when the threshold was less strict.
“The implication is that lowering thresholds may reduce attention to the driving environment and impair hazard detection,” the study finds.
“In addition, subjective workload ratings indicated that participants had to invest more effort in driving when under conservative conditions.
“This is of particular concern because increasing driver workload has been shown to degrade driving performance (eg reduced steering activity, poor distance estimation) and increase driver fatigue.”
In other words, more likely to crash.
“It may be that participants spent more time looking at the speedometer during the conservative condition, and that this led to the impaired performance observed,” the study finds.
Make low threshold public
Most jurisdictions have a threshold allowance for motorists to stray over the speed limit before attracting a fine. But it is usually an official secret!
While some states and countries announce their speed tolerance such as Scotland where it is 1mph (1.6km/h), it is not often made public.
The public perception, then, is that it is only a couple of kilometres. This perception is often based on anecdotal evidence and may be less than the actual threshold.
According to this study, that is making motorists more dangerous and inattentive than if they actually knew the threshold.
So why keep the threshold a secret? It would actually be safer for speed thresholds to be made public!
However, be aware that police with handheld radar can still issue a fine for anything over the speed limit.
It is often only speed cameras that are programmed to trigger at a specific figure above the speed zone limit.