Understanding the "Close-to-Home" effect that causes road accidents

77.1% of car crashes occur within 10 miles of the victim's home, and 87.6% occur within 20 miles.

BHPian ashkamath recently shared this with other enthusiasts.

This is an interesting observation. In automobile users' road behaviour there's something called as "Close to Home" effect. This happens to all riders/ drivers. The more experienced and longer you have driven, the more deep-rooted this phenomenon is. Novice drivers don't show this phenomenon.

When you drive every day towards your home, there's a point/ location where you suddenly feel very relaxed and comfortable with the "I am almost at home" feeling or "Well, entered my adda" feeling.

For me, when I ride from my home at Vasco, Say to Panaji city, while returning back as soon as I turn to Vasco city road from Panaji to Margao highway (about 12 kms away from my home) I immediately tend to relax and at total ease. My mind says "Now you have entered YOUR area" When I reach the Chicalim circle which is 1.5 Km from my home, I am like "I have reached home" mindset an extremely comfortable and relaxed mindset. I have noticed this change in my mind very clearly. It might have happened to you too.

So, when you are close to home (maybe 5 km or 1 km) your mind tends to relax and you drop your guard. The roads are familiar, the traffic is familiar, You know exactly how to drive that stretch and mentally you are not there, and then BAM BAM. Something goes wrong and you are in an accident.

There have been numerous studies done on this phenomenon.

According to a 2015 study published in the Journal of Trauma Acute Care Surgery, 77.1% of car crashes occur within 10 miles of the victim's home, and 87.6% occur within 20 miles. Insurance industry reports have also stated that 99% of crashes occur within 50 miles of home, and one-third of crashes happen within one mile

One interpretation of the increased crash risk associated with roads close to home is drivers’ familiarity and overconfidence on these roads. For example, studies have shown that drivers are more likely to experience mind wandering, or driving without awareness on familiar roads

So, the driver becomes very relaxed, drops guard, less or negligible spatial awareness and complacency when driving on familiar roads. Sometimes it is the fatigue too.

I believe the cyclist experienced a "Close to Home" effect and he dropped his guard and was inattentive to his surroundings. He probably might have crossed the road a hundred times earlier in that state of mind and have gotten through without any consequence until the Karma caught up with him.

The motorcycle rider was fast and alert. He expected the bicyclist to stop and intended to pass the cyclist at the front. The cyclist was on his home turf, relaxed, and inattentive. Two different mindsets that did not work together to avert a mishap.

On a regular road with 2 alert drivers on opposite sides, say at an intersection, they look at each other and instantly one will slow down or both will slow down when both mindset works in unison.

Yesterday I was in my friend's car and at a signal-less junction there were vehicles converging from 4 directions each intending to go in his own direction, it was chaos everywhere. But there was no accident. That's because the drivers were looking in the eyes of the other drivers and instantly knew who would wait and who would pass. Like an unwritten/unspoken agreement. That was missing in the above cyclist/ motorcycle accident.

I will not put the blame entirely on the cyclist because unknown to him the"Close to Home" phenomenon was affecting his mind and he was relaxed and dropped his guard. When entering my apartment complex road from the city main road, I have at times, been inattentive, and it was more of a reflex action than an alert careful driving and was in for a ride shock when a speeding motorcycle rider (who didn't expect that I would turn or slow down irrespective of the fact that my indicator was ON and I was relatively very slow) brushed my car. Had I made eye contact with him, probably he would have read my intention or I would have read his intention and stopped and allowed him to pass.

Drivers/ Riders should be aware of this "Accident close to home" effect and maintain high alert and care when they are very close (almost home) to home. That's the most vulnerable time of their drive.

You can do this experiment yourself and notice how your mind relaxes when you are very close to home compared to when you drive in a different locality/ city or highway. Are you turning a bit more aggressively on the last turn to your home? Do you tend to drive a tad bit faster in your neighborhood where you have been driving for over a decade? If so, you are displaying the "Closer to Home" effect.

Please don't fall for the false confidence that mind gives you and drop your guard. Stay alert till you reach your parking area and be safe.

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