The consequences of an increase in heavy goods vehicles for passenger car drivers' mental workload and behaviour: A simulator study

The effects of an increase in heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) on merging behavior and on mental workload of motorists during filtering in and out of traffic were studied. Participants drove in a driving simulator in a total of 12 conditions; twice in each of two weather conditions and in three traffic conditions. The weather conditions were clear weather and foggy weather. The traffic conditions were without HGVs (i.e. only private cars), the current mix of HGVs and private cars, and a condition with a 70% increase of HGVs leading to an HGV column in the slow lane. The focus of the study was on assessing effects on behavior and mental workload during filtering into traffic, and during exiting from the motorway. During the experiment driving performance was registered, behavior was observed, self reports were collected, and the participant's heart rate was recorded. The results showed that directly after filtering into traffic the variation in driving speed increased and the minimum time headway decreased with an increase in the proportion of HGVs. Joining motorway traffic was considered to involve greater effort and risk in the condition with a column of HGVs. The effects of the conditions on heart rate are less clear, although the moment when the participants joined the traffic is clearly visible. The effects of weather conditions were limited, drivers adapting their driving behavior in adverse weather by reducing speed. To exit the motorway is not a difficult maneuver. For that reason the lane change from the left hand to the right hand lane that preceded the exit was analyzed. Although increased mental effort was reported and the lane change was visible in the heart rate record, no critical changes as a result of increase in proportion of HGVs were found for this maneuver. However, in the condition with a column of HGVs, the exit that had to be taken was most frequently missed as HGVs obstructed the view of the exit signs. It is concluded that an increase in HGVs will make merging into traffic more mentally demanding and will decrease safety margins.

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  • English

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  • Accession Number: 01095560
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: Apr 15 2008 10:53AM