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Just how safe is it for motorists to ‘follow a friend?’

Published on Jul 7, 2017 at 10:15 pm in Car Accidents.

While motorists can now rely on everything from GPS systems and in-dash navigation programs to smartphones to provide them with directions, many nevertheless still rely on such tried-and-true techniques as consulting paper maps, asking strangers for directions and, of course, following friends.

Interestingly enough, a recently published study in the journal Frontiers in Psychology set out to determine just how safe this last method of getting from Point A to Point B really is.

As part of the study, researchers at Arizona State University recruited students with valid driver’s licenses to participate in a three-part driving simulation:

  • First simulation: Students drove around a simulated city landscape as they pleased in order to provide researchers with an idea of their regular driving behaviors/habits.
  • Second simulation: Students drove to a specific location in the simulated city landscape using directions from a navigation system. Here, researchers monitored their speed, distance between the car ahead, reactions to hazards, length of lane changes, etc.
  • Third simulation: Students drove to a specific location in the simulated city landscape by following a simulated friend who obeyed all traffic laws. Once again, researchers monitored their speed, distance between the car ahead, reactions to hazards, length of lane changes, etc.

Somewhat shockingly, they found that during the “following a friend” scenario, drivers were more likely to speed, tailgate, execute faster lane changes, and drive more erratically. To illustrate the last point, they were found to be more likely to run red lights or even cut off pedestrians.

As to the explanation for these results, the researchers theorizedthat it likely had to do with the simple fear of falling behind and getting lost. Accordingly, they indicated the safest thing for people to do is simply secure the address of the location from the friend ahead of time, such that it can be entered into a GPS system or a route planned out ahead of time.

If you’ve been seriously injured or lost a loved one due to the reckless actions of another motorist, consider speaking with a skilled legal professional as soon as possible to learn more about your rights and your options.

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