26/10/2016 10:05 AM AEDT | Updated 26/10/2016 4:36 PM AEDT

Trying To Keep To The Speed Limit Could Actually Be Dangerous

Are you watching the speedo or the road?

When drivers focus too closely to the speed, they stop paying attention to the road.

Strictly enforced speed limits could be as distracting to drivers as a mobile phone.

A new University of Western Australia study put 84 people into a driving simulator where they could be fined for travelling one, six, or 11 km/h over the limit.

School of Psychology author Vanessa Bowden said the stricter limits were so distracting, results were on par with illegal activity of talking on a mobile.

"Similar effects have been shown for individuals who drive while talking on a phone or operating their car's stereo," Bowden said.

University of Western Australia
The study used a driving simulator.

The study, published in journal Science Direct, also ran a 'peripheral detection task' while participants were driving to see their ability to pay attention.

"Our overall finding was that stricter speed enforcement may impair a driver's ability to detect hazards, especially those on the side of the road, because drivers are dedicating more attention to monitoring their speed.

"In reality the effects of strictly enforced speed limits could be even greater than in our study, with real-world drivers experiencing greater pressures to drive at or above the posted speed limit."