The influence of lighting, wall colour and inattention on traffic safety in tunnels: a simulator study

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Even though the crash risk in tunnels is rather lower than on the open road network, crash consequences can be very severe. Therefore it is of high importance to assure high safety standard in tunnels, which includes, but is not limited to, an appropriate illumination. The aim of this study was to investigate in which way different levels of illumination and brightness of the tunnel walls influence the behaviour of attentive and inattentive drivers.

The study was conducted in the Simulator III at VTI, which is a high-fidelity simulator with linear motion in lateral direction. A within-subjects design was employed, and 24 participants took part in the tests. Illumination was varied on three levels and tunnel wall colour and driver attention were varied on two levels each. Driving data, eye tracking data and subjective data were collected and analysed for an overtaking event and for an event-free driving situation.

Bright walls were more important for experienced safety and comfort than high illumination level, as long as the illumination was sufficiently bright. Further, driving behaviour and gaze behaviour were heavily influenced by driver state, with distracted drivers showing more unsafe behaviour. Additionally, bright walls received slightly lower demand ratings than dark walls.

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