Posts Tagged driving skills

Age, skill, and hazard perception in driving

Road hazard is any object, situation, occurrence or combination of these that introduce the possibility of the individual road user to experience harm (see Hawarth, Symmons & Kowadlo, 2000).

Hazard Perception (HP) is the ability to read the road (Mills, Hall, McDonald & Rolls, 1988) or situation awareness for dangerous situations (Horswill & Mckenna, 2004).

HP is a skill that improves with driving experience. Experienced drivers have a more holistic perception of the traffic environment. They adjust their eye scanning patterns to the characteristics of the traffic environment and they detect more hazards than young-inexperienced drivers. Young-inexperienced drivers (with few months of driving experience) have an impoverished knowledge base which causes them to pay more attention to unimportant details, and to scan the road less efficiently. With regard to elderly drivers, some studies have shown that unlike other driving-related skills, HP does not diminish over the years, since it is based on accumulated experience and schemata.

We used a video observation technique and showed that elderly drivers identified more hazards than experienced drivers, thereby supporting the claim that hazard perception does not diminish over time. However, in some cases they identify hazards later than experienced drivers. Thus, elderly drivers may identify the hazard (e.g., an intersection) at the same time as the experienced driver, but have slower physical reaction time or, more likely, project the hazards based on their own driving behavior which often consists of slower driving speeds than the obtained driving speed in the video-based scenarios.

To read more see our recent article: Age, skill, and hazard perception in driving Accident Analysis & Prevention, Volume 42, Issue 4, July 2010, Pages 1240-1249. Avinoam Borowsky, David Shinar, Tal Oron-Gilad


This study examined the effects of age and driving experience on the ability to detect hazards while driving; namely, hazard perception. Studies have shown that young-inexperienced drivers are more likely than experienced drivers to suffer from hazard perception deficiencies. However, it remains to be determined if this skill deteriorates with advancing age. Twenty-one young-inexperienced, 19 experienced, and 16 elderly drivers viewed six hazard perception movies while connected to an eye tracking system and were requested to identify hazardous situations. Four movies embedded planned, highly hazardous, situations and the rest were used as control. Generally, experienced and older-experienced drivers were equally proficient at hazard detection and detected potentially hazardous events (e.g., approaching an intersection, pedestrians on curb) continuously whereas young-inexperienced drivers stopped reporting on hazards that followed planned, highly hazardous situations. Moreover, while approaching T intersections older and experienced drivers fixated more towards the merging road on the right while young-inexperienced drivers fixated straight ahead, paying less attention to potential vehicles on the merging road. The study suggests that driving experience improves drivers’ awareness of potential hazards and guides drivers’ eye movements to locations that might embed potential risks. Furthermore, advanced age hardly affects older drivers’ ability to perceive hazards, and older drivers are at least partially aware of their age-related limitations.

Eye scanning patterns obtained from elderly-experienced (red), experienced (green) and young-inexperienced (blue) drivers are shown in the pictures below. The more experienced drivers tend to concentrate on the merging road on the right. Young drivers focus closer and more to the left.


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Alertness maintaining tasks (AMTs) while driving

Driving requires the driver to maintain high levels of alertness even with little or no interesting stimulation. As the driving route becomes more monotonous and familiar the driver is susceptible to loss of alertness and ‘passive’ fatigue symptoms (fatigue that develops over time when there appears to be little or no interesting stimulation).

This phenomenon is not unique to driving; here is what Commander James Edgar Waldron wrote about Flying:

“While much has been written about the glories and thrills of flying, it seems to me that too little has been stated about the boredom and tedium that drags on in between these fun-filled times. Although there is a saying that flying encompasses hours and hours of boredom, interspersed with occasional moments of terror, the tedium is seldom stressed. This chapter is not about terror, but about those long hours of sitting in a cockpit, as mile after mile of repetitious scenery sailed by. It is about the little things I would do to keep my interests from sagging and my eyelids from slamming shut”.

To counteract fatigue, drivers adopt different coping behaviors while driving; behaviors that they think (or hope) will maintain their alertness. Most common behaviors include listening to the radio, opening a window, following the separation line, talking to a passenger/on the phone, and drinking coffee. In research studies some of these behaviors were not proven to be effective in maintaining alertness. Little has been done in finding technological solutions to make the driver more alert (as opposed to alert the driver of his state).

In a simulator study among professional truck drivers, we examined whether using cognitive-demanding games (such as Trivia) helps in maintaining alertness in prolonged monotonous drives. Our study showed short-term effectiveness for the ‘Trivia’ AMT particularly in comparison with driving without countermeasures. Listening to music was also more beneficial than we expected.

You can read more about:  Alertness maintaining tasks (AMTs) while driving, Accident Analysis & Prevention, Volume 40, Issue 3, May 2008, Pages 851-860, Tal Oron-Gilad, Adi Ronen, David Shinar


We evaluated the effectiveness of alertness maintaining tasks (AMTs) on driver performance, subjective feelings, and psychophysiological state in monotonous simulated driving in two experiments. In the first experiment, 12 professional truck drivers participated in five sessions of simulated driving: driving only, driving with one of three AMTs (counterbalanced), and driving while listening to music. AMTs were not equally effective in maintaining alertness. The trivia AMT prevented driving performance deterioration, and increased alertness (measured by standardized HRV). The choice reaction time AMT was least demanding but also increased subjective sleepiness and reduced arousal (measured by alpha/beta ratio). The working memory AMT caused a significant decrement in driving speed, increased subjective fatigue, and was regarded by the participants as detrimental to driving. Trivia was preferred by the majority of the drivers over the other two AMTs. Experiment 2 further examined the utility of the trivia AMT. When the drivers engaged in the trivia AMT they maintained better driving performance and perceived the driving duration as shorter than the control condition. The two experiments demonstrated that AMTs can have a positive effect on alertness. The effect is localized in the sense that it does not persist beyond the period of the AMT activation.

The Figure shows the Alertness Ratio (derived from the EEG) for a single driver. The local positive effect of the Trivia-AMT on alertness is apparent.

Alertness Ratio

Alertness Ratio (derived from the EEG) for a single driver

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Aesthetics and usability of in-vehicle navigation displays

For those of you interested in the relationship between aesthetics and usability, we have recently published a new article in this area specifically related to in-vehicle navigation maps.

Aesthetics and usability of in-vehicle navigation displays .  International Journal of Human-Computer Studies, 69(1-2), 80-99.

Talia Lavie, Tal Oron-Gilad, Joachim Meyer

Research Highlights

►In vehicle navigation maps with minimal detail were found to be most aesthetic and usable. ►Moderately abstracted maps were sufficient for obtaining usability and aesthetic benefits. ►The color schema of navigation maps did not affect perceived aesthetics and usability. ►High connections were found between perceived aesthetics and perceived usability. ►Users’ usability evaluations were not always in line with their actual performances.


This research evaluates the aesthetics and usability of various in-vehicle electronic navigation map configurations. Study 1 adapted the aesthetics scale (Lavie and Tractinsky, 2004) to accommodate evaluations of map displays. Study 2 examined map displays that vary in the amount of information presented, their abstraction level and color schema, using objective and subjective usability measures. Maps with minimal detail produced best performances and highest evaluations. Abstractions were found to be advantageous when combined with reduced amount of detail and specific color schemas. Moderate abstractions were sufficient for obtaining the desired benefits. The color schema mainly affected the objective measures, pointing to the importance of good contrast between the cursor and the map colors. Study 3 further examined map schemas. Color schemas again had no effect on the perceptions of aesthetics and usability. Overall, similar results and high correlations were found for the perceived aesthetics and usability scales, indicating the connection between perceived aesthetics and usability. Lower correlations were found between the actual usability (performance) and the aesthetics scale. Finally, users’ usability evaluations were not always in line with their actual performance, pointing to the importance of using objective usability measures.

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