Speeding in School Zones: Violation or Lapse in Prospective Memory

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Speed is one of the most prominent variables of interest observed in relation to motor accidents around school zones. In that regard, inappropriate speed is cited as a causal factor in over a third of the fatal accidents that take place around the school environs. The role played by traffic lights and journey interruption is the next variable. For instance, Australian school zones, which were the subject areas for the studies, have a stipulated speed limit of 40 km/h.  This demands that their driving speeds should range from between 20 km/h to 40 km/h but this did not seem to stem the number of accidents and casualties hit by over speeding cars near or around schools (Gregory, 2014). Humans too (the motorists) are an important aspect in this study for human behavior is hard to predict due to a multiplicity of factors involved (Adele, 2012).

Consequently, two studies were conducted to find out whether the drivers of automobiles were consciously responsible for the accidents through their behavior of over speeding or this was caused by some other underlying factors. Those who took part in the studies included motorists who had been required to make stops at the indication of red on the traffic lights and those that had not been required to stop. In the first study, observations were made to establish whether there was a correlation between an interruption of a journey in the form of traffic light stops and the failure to resume travelling speed before the interruption occurred and over speeding. The results indicated that motorists who had an interrupted journey by means of a traffic light stop on average exceeded the stipulated speed limits by 8.2km/h thus running a higher risk of causing an accident around or near school zones (Gregory, 2014).

However, the second study found out that motorists who did not experience an interruption in their journey were in better control of their vehicles. On average, this set of drivers exceeded the speed limits specified around school zones by an average of only 1.76 km/h and were therefore less likely to cause serious casualties or injuries in case an accident occurred.   This second case study also had an addition of then flashing ‘check speed’ signal placed 70 meters after the traffic lights and the observations were made in the exact school zones used in the first study. It was then observed that the introduction of the speed checking signals resulted in the elimination of the interruptive effect of the traffic lights hence the drivers were able to continue with their journey within stipulated legal limits (Gregory, 2014). Separately, another study linked the reciprocal influence of mood to attention of a motorist and risk evaluation whereby driving was found to demand high attentional resources (Pêcher, 2009)

The major findings of these studies are that traffic light stops near school zones indeed play a role in over speeding by motorists beyond legal limits. Motorists partially unintentionally committed the study proved that over speeding in school zones. In psychological terms, the familiarity of drivers with the environment can also contribute to laxity in awareness, attentiveness or cognitive awareness to over speeding. Stopping too affects the motorist’s sense of judgment for speed about which exceeding the limits might be a subconscious way of over compensating for the stops which results in exceeding set speed limits. Over speeding might therefore be stemmed through counter measures besides traffic lights to include flashing lights, which can help improve the mindfulness of drivers as they approach or drive through school zones.

The study is important to the public as a means of increasing road safety for pedestrians. The study has also proven that the presence of traffic lights around schools does not necessarily guarantee safety for the children or pedestrians; there is more that needs to stop traffic accidents that go beyond the engineering of the roads through markings and light to include psychology behind driving and speed and the causative factors for over speeding.

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