Every car manufacturer spends endless hours trying to ensure that its vehicles are as safe as possible for drivers – but according to a new study, there’s one factor that could have a dramatic impact on your risk of having an accident, and it’s not something that comes as standard.
Researchers at Sussex University have been looking into the effect of scent on those behind the wheel, and found that in driving simulators, spraying a pleasant, soothing fragrance – particularly if it features notes of rose – reduced the likelihood of of a crash occurring.
The scientists set up a system which featured a spraying function in the centre of a steering wheel, and released a range of different smells when the driver was presented with a hazard, like an unpredictable cyclist, or another car unexpectedly pulling out.
Their findings showed that a introducing a calming rose-infused fragrance to the situation cut the number of accidents by 64 per cent, while a musky fragrance like civet had the opposite effect, increasing accidents by 46 per cent.
Dmitrijs Dmitrenko, a doctoral researcher at Sussex University said of the findings: ‘The idea was inspired by trends in the auto industry – the use of different in-car perfumes.
‘Obviously smell is very hard to investigate, it’s very hard to control and hard to get it right. People in the industry are put off by the idea because they don’t know how to control the olfactory stimuli [scents]. But we built this equipment that enables this.
‘One of the advantages of smell over sight is that smell is quicker at reaching the brain. Smells take a while to reach the nose, but once the smell molecules reach the nose, the transition to nose and brain is quicker than eyes and ears.’
There is still some work to be done before the result of the study can be applied to day-to-day driving, as there would need to be a system which could perceive hazards in the same way as the simulator for it to be effective. The team behind the study also note that a rose-scented air freshener would not have the same effect long-term, as your nose quickly gets accustomed to the constant presence of the scent.
Instead, they hope to attract attention from major car companies to bring the fragrance technology to the masses.