Battle of the Drivers: Driver v Driver (research study)

Organisation: East Riding of Yorkshire Council & Safer Roads Humber
Date uploaded: 31st January 2018
Date published/launched: January 2018

Data from East Riding of Yorkshire Public Health shows that road traffic collisions are the most common mortality factor for 17-25 year olds. Crash investigation data shows that observation and failure to look properly or anticipate other drivers’ manoeuvres are among the most common causation factors. So, what makes young drivers so vulnerable, and how they can be advised and protected? These are some of the questions that the road safety team at East Riding of Yorkshire Council have been trying to address.

In an effort to highlight the importance of developing safe driving practices and produce valuable road safety education resources, East Riding of Yorkshire Council and the Safer Roads Humber Partnership commissioned i2 media research limited, a spin off company of the Psychology Department at Goldsmiths, University of London, to conduct an academic study to explore how drivers of varying experience and training differ in how they view the roads as they drive, and how distractions affect their behaviour.

Each participant was asked to drive a specific route around a track in a dual controlled car as well as watching a video of selected clips from the DVSA’s Hazard Perception Test on a large TV screen.

Specific mental distractions (e.g., counting backwards, texting) were used as part of the study to simulate the effect of distractions while driving.

Eye tracking technology was used to obtain an accurate, real time representation of where drivers were looking in a range of driving scenarios.

Findings included:
• Experienced drivers tend to look further ahead compared to novice drivers, anticipating bends and scanning further ahead on the road.

• Drivers scan less when thinking about something complicated: performing a demanding task while driving resulted in a tendency for participants to have a less distributed gaze pattern, with less visual attention to peripheral areas.

• People can’t do two things at once: whether it was a cognitive (i.e., counting backwards) or a combined cognitive and physical task (i.e., texting), distractions tended to impair drivers’ performance irrespective of their ability.

• Some of the inexperienced drivers tended to be overconfident: when asked to indicate how well they thought that they drove compared to their peers, novice drivers tended to score more positively than experienced/advanced drivers. They were also less likely to say that the distraction tasks affected their driving.

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