Are you a middle lane driver?

We’ve tracked down this interesting article from January about why drivers, particularly the more experienced driver, tend to avoid motorway manoeuvres, instead opting for the middle lane.

The Institute of Psychological Science at the University of Leeds have established that older drivers have a ‘built-in safety mechanism’ which inclines them to drive in the middle of the road and avoid the manoeuvres which test their gradually slowing reactions.

Subjects were given a screen laptop and asked to trace wiggly lines of varying widths – slowly, quickly and at their own preferred pace before steering along ‘virtual’ winding roads. Two subjects, in their 70s, remained well within the wiggly lines indicating twisting and turning lanes, and stayed in the middle of the road on the simulator. A group of drivers aged 18-40 had a tendency to cut corners and use the road’s full availability.

Project supervisor Dr Richard Wilkie commented: “It is important to establish what strategies are adopted by older drivers in order to ensure their safety – as well as the safety of other road users. Understanding how older people learn to adapt to a diminished level of skill has implications for our approach to rehabilitating patients with reduced movement.”

The report added: “In the real world, a reduced consistency in road position makes it more difficult for the driver behind to safely complete manoeuvres that rely on the stability of the leading vehicle’s road position (e.g., overtaking and merging). Likewise, driving too slowly increases the variance in the speed of vehicles traveling together, which increases the risk of accidents (Garber & Gadirau, 1988). Slow driving can frustrate other drivers, leading to risky overtaking manoeuvres (McGwin & Brown, 1999). It seems, therefore, that older drivers’ compensatory strategies may not always be sufficient to ensure road safety.”

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