I’ll Show You the Way: Risky Driver Behavior When “Following a Friend”

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Previous research examining social influences on driving behavior has primarily focused on the effects of passengers and surrounding vehicles (e.g., speed contagion). Of current interest was the interaction between drivers

Previous research examining social influences on driving behavior has primarily focused on the effects of passengers and surrounding vehicles (e.g., speed contagion). Of current interest was the interaction between drivers that occurs in a “following a friend” scenario, i.e., the driver of one vehicle (the leader) knows how to get to the desired destination while the driver of a second vehicle (the follower) does not. Sixteen participants drove through a simulated city in a driving simulator under three conditions: (i) a baseline condition in which they could choose their own route, (ii) a navigation system condition in which they were given audible route instructions, and (iii) a “follow a friend” condition in which they required to follow a simulated vehicle. In the follow a friend condition, drivers engaged in significantly more risky behaviors (in comparison to the other conditions) such as making more erratic and higher speed turns and lane changes, maintaining overall higher speed, as well as maintaining a shorter time headway when following a lead vehicle. These effects suggest a relationship to time pressure caused by a fear of getting lost.