Most Dangerous Driving Hours

When teaching teens how to drive, it is natural to incorporate common sense items that are encountered every day. For example, the greater car control skills that teen drivers develop the better, makes sense, right? But hold on, studies have shown that teens who have developed their car control skills too finely actually have more collisions. This is due to overconfidence coupled with the fact that they still don’t have the experience to recognize hazardous conditions. For the most part, drivers ed has been based on common sense instructional techniques, many of which may not help and/or may cause harm.

Here’s a case where a research study has actually shown that a common sense assumption of dangerous driving conditions actually match reality. One assumption being, the most dangerous driving conditions in traffic are between the hours of 6pm and 8pm. Well, most people would say that’s obvious, but they are probably the same people who would think teens maximizing their car control skills would make them safer drivers.

A recent traffic study done in Madrid, Spain shows that the most dangerous time to drive is between 6pm and 8pm. The Department of Traffic Technologies of Madrid City Council had detection devices installed on the M30 motorway and its access roads which collected data for the study. The study was performed by SICE, the company in charge of the motorway, which used its historical driving records database to develop the detection equipment and procedures for the study.

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The picture on the left shows the placement of traffic detectors under the white frames on the M30 motorway in Madrid. On the right is a detailed picture of a detector and the data processing equipment used to store and analyze the traffic data.

The study was based on traffic intensity, measured in vehicles/hour and the density of the traffic measured in vehicles/km during three traffic phases: 1) congested, 2)free-flow, and 3)intermission (or synchronized). All three phases showed a correlation between the time of day and the density / intensity combination requiring the most attention from drivers and hence are the most dangerous times to drive.

The bottom line of the study, which was published in the Central European Journal of Physics, was that the most dangerous time to drive was between the hours of 6pm and 8pm. Drivers should take precautions during this time, including paying full attention to the surrounding conditions and being ready to react to these conditions as they quickly change. Its nice to see that sometimes our common sense can be verified by research. However, in the meantime its always good to keep a skeptical eye on those things you “know are true”. Please visit our driving tips section for instructional videos and more information on safe driving.

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