Road lines seem shorter because you are driving faster than you think

February 3rd, 2009 - 1:05 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, February 3 (ANI): A study in the United States has revealed that drivers grossly underestimate the length of the dashed lines painted down the middle of a road to separate traffic lanes or indicate where passing is allowed, which may mean that they misjudge distances and drive too fast as a result.
Lead researcher Dennis Shaffer, assistant professor of psychology at Ohio State Universitys Mansfield campus, has revealed that most people think that the dashed lines are just two feet long, when in reality they are kept 10 feet long as per the federal guidelines.
Describing his study in the journal Perception and Psychophysics, Shaffer has revealed that he and his colleagues tested more than 400 college students in three experiments.
He says that upon being asked to guess the length of the lines from memory, most of the subjects answered two feet.
The researcher adds that the students judged the size to be the same even when they were standing some distance away from actual 10-foot lines or riding by them in a car.
We were surprised, first, that peoples estimates were so far off, and second, that there was so little variability, Shaffer said.
He says that the finding holds implications for traffic safety because the empty spaces between the dashed lines measure 30 feet, and every time a car passes a new dashed line, it has travelled 40 feet.
However, the studys subjects consistently judged the lines and the empty spaces to be the same size, claiming that both were two feet.
This means that to most people, 40 feet looks like a lot less than 40 feet when theyre on the road. People cover more ground than they think in a given period of time, so they are probably underestimating their speed, Shaffer said.
When Shaffer began the research as a graduate student at Kent State University in 1995, the federal guideline for line size used to be 15 feet.
He revealed that in Arizona in 2000, some lines were 16 feet long instead of the expected 15, but even then people thought that they measured only two feet.
It was ridiculous. We talked to different people in different states, over different years, and whether the lines were 15 feet or 10 feet, people still estimated them to be two feet, Shaffer said.
In the future, Shaffer will examine how people perceive the size of lines that are oriented at different angles, as if seen by a driver approaching a bend in a road, and how our perceptions affect peoples ability to judge the steepness of hills. (ANI)

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