Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Watching Fast and Furious movies makes you drive recklessly

Using detailed traffic violation data from Montgomery County, Md., we were able to examine all speeding tickets there from 2012 to 2017. This length of time allowed us to investigate the effect of three movies in the “Fast and Furious” series. Looking at the 192,892 speeding tickets recorded, we analyzed the average miles per hour over the speed limit that drivers were charged with going on a given day.

We found a large increase in the average speed of drivers who received speeding tickets on the weekends after “Fast and Furious” releases. Comparing the three weekends before each movie’s release with the three weekends after, we found that the speeds people were given tickets for increased almost 20 percent, to an average of 19 miles per hour over the speed limit, from 16 miles per hour.

We also found that rates of extreme speeding increased. For example, the percentage of drivers charged with driving more than 40 miles per hour above the speed limit nearly doubled (though it remained a tiny proportion of the total), to 2 percent of all violations.

Additionally, using data on latitude and longitude reported in the tickets, we found that increases in this extreme speeding were concentrated in areas close to movie theaters (often within two miles), consistent with speeding behavior induced by moviegoing.

We compared the geographic distribution of these extreme speeding violations in the three weekends before versus after movie releases. We found that the vast majority of tickets handed out in the three weekends after movie releases occurred on Route 270, a major highway that runs adjacent to several large movie theaters in the county.

During the three weekends before movie releases, extreme speeding violations were not only less common but were also, on average, farther from the movie theaters (and Route 270).

To check that these findings weren’t spurious, we looked at speeding tickets after the release of four movies in “The Hunger Games” series, another popular franchise in the same time period that didn’t glorify fast driving. Speeding didn’t go up.

We also performed a “falsification test.” When we looked at the dates of “Fast and Furious” releases and compared them with the previous year, when no movie was released, there was no effect on speeding.
--Anupam Jena, Aakash Jain, and Tanner Hicks, NYT, on an effect I have personally been subject to