The key, it turns out, is to keep a focus on the basics.
The basics are driving on the highway and avoiding the red light.
But, says Professor Paul Williams, the study’s author, a lot more goes into making sure people don’t hit the brakes.
“You don’t want people going straight at the light,” he says.
“The safest way to drive is to slow down and get through the intersection.
And then you don’t have to stop to cross the road.”
He recommends paying close attention to where your car stops, where you turn and how quickly you do it.
“If you do turn, you should look around to see if there’s another vehicle behind you, if there are pedestrians around, if you see a light that changes colour, if any cars have pulled into the intersection.”
The study found the best way to avoid a red light was to make sure you were moving through the traffic, not stopping.
“When you’re travelling at high speed, there’s a certain amount of time between when you stop and when you cross the street,” Professor Williams says.
“[And] the less time you spend stopping, the less chances you’ll hit a red.”
The Australian Institute of Criminology, a leading research body in traffic psychology, recommends that motorists should keep a safe distance from traffic and keep their eyes on the road.
“We think it’s important to remember that traffic stops are an unavoidable and unavoidable part of our daily lives, especially when you’re driving in an urban environment,” it says.
If you’ve been on the wrong side of the road, stop your car to give other motorists a moment to react, says professor Williams.
But he also suggests avoiding unnecessary stops.
“A lot of times people think of driving in a traffic jam as an inevitable part of driving,” he explains.
“But the reality is we’re all humans and we make mistakes.”
The road ahead?
While there is no shortage of information on how to improve your driving, the research behind the research is pretty limited.
The study was done in Australia and Canada but the results may not apply to other countries.
Professor Williams is also concerned that a lot of the research focus on road safety is “based on anecdotes, and they’re not necessarily backed up by good data”.
Professor Williams has been researching road safety since 2002 and says he’s had to turn to Google and other online resources to learn the science.
He also admits that while there are a lot people out there who have already made a career out of trying to make road safety better, there is much work to be done.
“I think the best thing you can do is to take a look at what’s going on, and try to put together some of the elements that might work for you,” he said.
“That might mean being careful not to take unnecessary risks and not to drive too fast, not to brake too hard.”
Professor Williams, who also has a PhD in engineering, is currently working on a study looking at how to make cars safer.
“There’s a lot that could be done to improve the safety of our vehicles, but it’s not going to be easy,” he told The Conversation.
“So I’m interested in finding the best ways to do that.”
You can find more information on the Australian Government’s road safety plan here.