Written by Amy Brticevich

A merger of psychology and technology is the basis of research being conducted at Griffith University in the hope of making our roads a safer place.

PhD candidate Brenton McNally says it is a general interest in people and their behaviours that has led him to pursue this career path.

“It’s not only an interest in people, but in why they do the things they do and why they think the way they think,” Mr McNally said.

Mr McNally’s PhD is based on identifying the predictors of unsafe driving behaviours in young drivers, or, what risks they take and why.

Three categories of risky driving

Under the research, risky behaviours have been grouped into three categories; distracted, positioning and substance use.

Statistics show that people between the ages of 17-24 comprise just 13 per cent of Australia’s driving population, but account for a quarter of road deaths.

“Young drivers are consistently over-represented in road death and injury rates and through my work into those identified behaviours, the goal is to provide a platform of understanding to those developing road safety intervention programs,” Mr McNally said.

“Essentially, this is aiming to bring varied branches of research together as a way of fostering a better understanding of the concept of reckless driving, particularly among young drivers.”

According to Mr McNally, the diversity of driving behaviours is what makes it such an interesting subject for study.“Driving is a complex behaviour in itself and it’s something that affects a vast majority of the population. That’s why we have to study all facets of it.”

As for technology helping to play a role in decreasing the risky behaviours of young drivers, Mr McNally and his supervisor Associate Professor Graham Bradley from the School of Applied Psychology are in the process of applying for a Griffith Health Institute grant.

If the application is successful, the focus of the associated project is to assess the attitudes and perceptions of young drivers towards an In-Vehicle Data Recorderthat would measure their driving behaviours and serve as a way of adjusting insurance premiums.

“Once we know what young drivers views towards these devices are, the goal is to make it beneficial for them not to engage in risky behaviours,” Mr McNally said.

“One way of doing this would be to introduce cheaper premiums for those who drive safely.”

The grant and its related project are still in the very early stages, with Mr McNally hoping to find some compatible industry partners for further, experimental research in to the presence of the data recorders on driving behaviour.