Michael A. Knodler, Jr., Ph.D
University of Massachusetts - Amherst
Civil Engineering
Eleni Christofa
University of Massachusetts - Amherst
Civil Engineering




A Driving Simulator Evaluation of Cross-Sectional Design Elements and the Resulting Driver Behaviors

Traditionally, traffic calming techniques have been employed to reduce and / or manage vehicle speeds and increase safety for not only the driver, but also for the other roadway users. More recently, practices related to complete streets have translated into a revised approach to managing roadway speeds that are necessitated for accommodating multiple modes within a single space. Previous studies have demonstrated the efficacy of various devices that when implemented, individually or in treatment combinations, can effectively decrease roadway injury related crashes and fatalities. Nevertheless, there is a gap in the existing knowledge with regards to the specific roadway design elements and their direct impact on the resulting driver behaviors.

This research proposes to explore the relationship between cross-sectional design elements on selected driver attributes, including vehicle speed profiles and, lateral positioning. Additional performance measures such as perceived sense of safety, eye tracking and scanning, and hazard anticipation will also be evaluated. An advanced driver simulator will be used to model a base roadway condition with typical travel lanes and shoulder on a collector type roadway. For added validity, speed measurements from the real world roadway from which the simulator scenarios will be modeled, are going to be recorded. The base model next be reconfigured using five different geometrically designed cross sections: Design elements included in the various scenarios will include the following elements: reduced travel lane and increased shoulder widths, added bike lanes, a center median, and a curvilinear roadway profile. In addition, roadside vegetation will be manipulated to explore its impact on driver performance. Note the impact of roadside vegetation on driver performance is under investigation as part of a Safer Sim Phase 1 research project. Across scenarios, the same performance measures will be evaluated to isolate elements of each roadside environment provided and their resulting impacts on driving behavior. The results of this study promise to provide insight related to roadway design elements and driver behavior, and have the potential to improve design practices and roadway safety moving forward.

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