Melbourne, Australia - Strict enforcement of speed limits could be detrimental to road safety, an Australian study has found.
The study, completed by the University of Western Australia, found that motorists paid more attention to their speed than detecting potential hazards on the road.
Participants in the study were divided into three groups and were told they could be fined for driving either one, six or 11km/h over the 50km/h limit. The participants from the three groups had their response to red dots, used to simulate potential road hazards, cast onto the windshield of their vehicles measured.
Lead researcher Vanessa Bowden said the group who were given the one kilometre threshold were less likely to detect objects outside their immediate line of sight.
“We concluded that drivers' mental and visual resources were being used up by paying extra attention to the speed monitoring task,” she said, “and this was taking some of their attention away from the visual world around them when they were driving.”
Bowden said the results of the study should be taken into consideration by road safety authorities worldwide.
“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,” she said. “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.”