Speeding in school zones: violation or lapse in prospective memory?

  • Published: J Exp Psychol Appl. 2014 Sep;20(3)
  • Authors: Gregory, B., Irwin, J.D., Faulks I. J., Chekaluk, E.
  • Date Added: 05 May 2017
  • Last Update: 05 May 2017
  • Format: html


Inappropriate speed is a causal factor in around one third of fatal accidents (OECD/ECMT, 2006). But are drivers always consciously responsible for their speeding behaviour?


Two studies are reported which show that an interruption to a journey, caused by stopping at a red traffic light, can result in failure to resume the speed of travel prior to the interruption (Study 1). In Study 2 we showed that the addition of a reminder cue could offset this interruption. These studies were conducted in a number of Australian school zone sites subject to a 40 km/h speed limit, requiring a reduction of between 20 km/h and 40 km/h.

Key Findings:

  • Motorists who had stopped at a red traffic signal sped on average, 8.27 km/h over the speed limit compared with only 1.76 km/h over the limit for those who had not been required to stop.

  • In the second study a flashing "check speed" reminder cue, placed 70 m after the traffic lights, in the same school zones as those in Study 1 eliminated the interruptive effect of stopping with drivers resuming their journey at the legal speed.

  • These findings have practical implications for the design of road environments, enforcement of speed limits, and the safety of pedestrians.


Inappropriate speed, Traffic light, School zones, Interruption.