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Roadside memorials are not a distraction to Kiwi drivers, study suggests

A University of Otago study suggests that drivers are not as distracted by roadside memorials like crosses as previously thought by some.

Vanessa Beanland of the Otago University Department of Psychology partnered with Rachael Wynne of the University of Sunshine Coast for the study, which tested the attention people pay to roadside memorials.

For the study, 40 people were shown videos of travelling along a road, and had their eye movements monitored.

The drivers were also able to indicate as they travelled along whether or not they believed the road was riskier or safer, and whether or not they would be reducing speed at that point.

The results showed that while roadside memorials attracted a small amount of attention - about 400 milliseconds on average - they were not likely to slow drivers down or make them drive more carefully.

"Our results show that roadside memorials frequently capture attention, but this doesn’t necessarily result in an observable change in behaviour," Ms Beanland said.

"This makes sense because there are so many other factors that influence our driving behaviour."

She said the study was significant because some people in the past have argued that roadside memorials could distract drivers.

Of those who participated in the study, most supported permanent roadside memorials being allowed, although some argued that their size and location should be regulated.

A roadside memorial in the form of a cross and flowers. Source: Supplied