Car chases in movies embolden Albertans to drive fast and furious, study shows

You step out of the theatre after watching the latest in The Fast and the Furious film series and get behind the wheel of your car. Do you suddenly feel the urge to pull a page out of Dominic Toretto’s book and go 140 km/h down Anthony Henday Drive?

A University of Alberta study says some Edmontonians do.

The study, led by Deanna Singhal of the university’s psychology department, looked at speeding infractions four weeks prior and four weeks after the release of the sixth and seventh instalments of The Fast and The Furious series.

“Certainly for opening weekend, following Furious 7, there was a significant increase in the number of infractions,” Singhal told CBC’s Radio Active.

Not only were there more infractions, but the speed differential — or how much faster drivers were caught travelling than the posted speed limit — was higher too.

“Not only were more people speeding on the road, but they were going faster,” Singhal said.

The researcher said the type of research can’t suggest cause and effect, but she said there is a link there. Singhal also accounted for traffic congestion at the time as well as weather.

It’s not just the Fast series, either. Singhal said other films with high-speed car chases can normalize the behaviour.

“Oftentimes, it’s shown with a lack of negative consequences — and that can be problematic for the viewer and what they think is normal.”

Singhal also studied three groups of first-year psychology students: one group was shown a video of aggressive driving, another was shown a video of driving that wasn’t aggressive and the third group was a control group.

She also looked at the participants’ driving history and whether they watched movies with high-speed car chases. The participants were put in a driving simulator where she watched for aggressive driving behaviours, like pushing the gas harder to speed up quicker.

Vin Diesel (left) plays Dominic Toretto in ‘The Fast and the Furious’ series. (Supplied)

The research didn’t show a significant increase in the aggressive driving video group, but they did see the same link between those who watched high-speed chases in movies and those who showed more aggressive driving behaviours in the simulator.

Singhal wonders if whether it’s not necessarily the content that pushes the driver to act more aggressively or if it’s the driver actively seeking out the content.

Regardless, Singhal said her research shows a link — and the driver has to be aware of it.

“There has to be real emphasis on the driver here,” she said. “They need to understand that this content can influence their behaviour.”

But the onus is also on the producers of said content, she said. In the older Fast movies, there were PSAs at the beginning of the movie by the actors to say the driving is done by professionals. Now, she said, movies aren’t doing that as much.

“That could be beneficial to see these people that they revere telling them, ‘Hey, this is not safe.'”



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Sherwood Park

Sherwood Park is a large hamlet in Alberta, Canada within Strathcona County that is recognized as an urban service area.[7] It is located adjacent to the City of Edmonton’s eastern boundary,[8] generally south of Highway 16 (Yellowhead Trail), west of Highway 21 and north of Highway 630 (Wye Road).[9] Other portions of Sherwood Park extend beyond Yellowhead Trail and Wye Road, while Anthony Henday Drive (Highway 216) separates Refinery Row to the west from the balance of the hamlet to the east.[9]

Sherwood Park was established in 1955 on farmland of the Smeltzer family, east of Edmonton. With a population of 70,618 in 2016,[6] Sherwood Park has enough people to be Alberta’s seventh largest city, but technically retains the status of a hamlet. The Government of Alberta recognizes the Sherwood Park Urban Service Area as equivalent to a city.

History

Sherwood Park, originally named Campbelltown, was founded by John Hook Campbell and John Mitchell in 1953 when the Municipal District of Strathcona No. 83 approved their proposed development of a bedroom community east of Edmonton. The first homes within the community were marketed to the public in 1955. Canada Post intervened on the name of Campbelltown due to the existence of several other communities in Canada within the same name, so the community’s name was changed to Sherwood Park in 1956.
Geography

The Sherwood Park Urban Service Area is located in the Edmonton Capital Region along the western edge of central Strathcona County adjacent to the City of Edmonton.[8] The majority of the community is bound by Highway 16 (Yellowhead Highway) to the north, Highway 21 to the east, Highway 630 (Wye Road) to the south, and Anthony Henday Drive (Highway 216) to the west. The Refinery Row portion of Sherwood Park is located across Anthony Henday Drive to the west, between Sherwood Park Freeway and Highway 16. Numerous developments fronting the south side of Wye Road, including Wye Gardens, Wye Crossing, Salisbury Village and the Estates of Sherwood Park, are also within the community. Lands north of Highway 16 and south of Township Road 534/Oldman Creek between Range Road 232 (Sherwood Drive) to the west and Highway 21 to the east are also within the Sherwood Park urban service area.

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