Crash Barriers and Driver Behavior: A Simulator Study

Publisher's full text
Hans Antonson
Mats Wiklund
Selina Mårdh

Objective: The study examines how drivers experience a conventional W-beam guardrail (metal crash barrier) along both sides of narrow versus wider roads (single carriageway with 2 lanes) in terms of stress, feelings, and driving patterns and whether subjective experience concurs with the actual driving patterns captured by the quantitative data.

Methods: The study used different methods to capture data, including the VTI Driving Simulator III (speed and lateral vehicle position) in conjunction with electrocardiogram (ECG) data on heart rate variability (HRV) and questionnaires (oral during driving and written after driving). Eighteen participants-8 men and 10 women-were recruited for the simulator study and the simulator road section was 10 km long.

Results: Driving speeds increased slightly on the wider road and on the road with a crash barrier, and the lateral driving position was nearer to the road center on the narrower road and on the road with a crash barrier. The HRV data did not indicate that participants experienced greater stress due to road width or due to the presence of a crash barrier. Participant experience captured in the oral questionnaires suggested that road width did not affect driver stress or driving patterns; however, the written questionnaire results supported the simulator data, indicating that a wider road led to increased speed. None of the participants felt that crash barriers made them feel calmer.

Conclusions: We believe that there is a possibility that the increased speed on roads with crash barriers may be explained by drivers’ sense of increased security. This study demonstrates that an experimental design including experience-based data captured using both a simulator and questionnaires is productive. It also demonstrates that driving simulators can be used to study road features such as crash barriers. It seems more than likely that features such as street lamps, signs, and landscape objects could be tested in this way. © 2013 Copyright Taylor and Francis Group, LLC.

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