Could this cure road rage?

The Starts at 60 community has always had plenty to say about the subject of road rage. Many of us have been on the receiving end of it, and it can be very genuinely devastating.

On the flipside, we have all seen some real turkeys on the road: the hoons who don’t bother with indicators; the slow Sunday drivers who stick to the right lane; the pedestrians who make an extreme sport out of jaywalking. Drivers like this don’t exactly bring out our kindest behaviour.

But why does driving turn people into such tightly-wound bundles of anger?

A team of psychologists and game developers at The University of the Sunshine Coast (USC) has a very novel way to find out: an electronic road rage simulator.

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According to the ABC, this driving simulator places three volunteers together in a virtual world. As they encounter stressful merging situations, their reactions (such as blood pressure, heart rate and overall stress levels) are recorded, allowing researchers to better understand driver behaviour.

The RACQ is funding the project in the hopes that it will ultimately improve the personal health and safety of drivers.

“Discourtesy on our roads, aggression, or even just distracted driving or oblivious driving all add to the stress of a trip”, said RACQ head of advocacy Paul Turner.

“What we want to do is de-stress the drive and make it safer and better for all of us”.

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Dr. Bridie Scott-Parker, a psychologist at USC, says this study could help uncover how and why driving can affect a driver’s health.

“We want to understand what drivers are finding stressful on the road and what’s not stressful and how that’s actually affecting their health”.

“We can measure things like blood pressure and heart rate and stress in your saliva, but we also want to improve road safety, so it’s a multifaceted project”.

What realistic road situations do you think they should include in the simulator? And what really grinds your gears when you’re on the road?