Car chases in movies embolden Albertans to drive fast and furious, study shows

The study, led by Deanna Singhal of the university’s psychology department, looked at speeding infractions four weeks prior and four weeks after the release of the sixth and seventh instalments of the Fast series.

University of Alberta study shows Edmontonians driving faster and more often after 'Furious 7' was released

Seeing a movie with cars driving at high rates of speed can embolden other drivers to do the same, a University of Alberta study says. (Supplied)

You step out of the theatre after watching the latest in The Fast and the Furious film series and get behind the wheel of your car. Do you suddenly feel the urge to pull a page out of Dominic Toretto's book and go 140 km/h down Anthony Henday Drive?

A University of Alberta study says some Edmontonians do.

The study, led by Deanna Singhal of the university's psychology department, looked at speeding infractions four weeks prior and four weeks after the release of the sixth and seventh instalments of The Fast and The Furious series.

"Certainly for opening weekend, following Furious 7, there was a significant increase in the number of infractions," Singhal told CBC's Radio Active.

Not only were there more infractions, but the speed differential — or how much faster drivers were caught travelling than the posted speed limit — was higher too.

"Not only were more people speeding on the road, but they were going faster," Singhal said.

The researcher said the type of research can't suggest cause and effect, but she said there is a link there. Singhal also accounted for traffic congestion at the time as well as weather.

It's not just the Fast series, either. Singhal said other films with high-speed car chases can normalize the behaviour.

"Oftentimes, it's shown with a lack of negative consequences — and that can be problematic for the viewer and what they think is normal."

Singhal also studied three groups of first-year psychology students: one group was shown a video of aggressive driving, another was shown a video of driving that wasn't aggressive and the third group was a control group.

She also looked at the participants' driving history and whether they watched movies with high-speed car chases. The participants were put in a driving simulator where she watched for aggressive driving behaviours, like pushing the gas harder to speed up quicker.

Vin Diesel (left) plays Dominic Toretto in 'The Fast and the Furious' series. (Supplied)

The research didn't show a significant increase in the aggressive driving video group, but they did see the same link between those who watched high-speed chases in movies and those who showed more aggressive driving behaviours in the simulator.

Singhal wonders if whether it's not necessarily the content that pushes the driver to act more aggressively or if it's the driver actively seeking out the content.

Regardless, Singhal said her research shows a link — and the driver has to be aware of it.

"There has to be real emphasis on the driver here," she said. "They need to understand that this content can influence their behaviour."

But the onus is also on the producers of said content, she said. In the older Fast movies, there were PSAs at the beginning of the movie by the actors to say the driving is done by professionals. Now, she said, movies aren't doing that as much.

"That could be beneficial to see these people that they revere telling them, 'Hey, this is not safe.'"