David A. Noyce, Ph.D., P.E.
University of Wisconsin - Madison
Civil Engineering




Driving Simulator Evaluation of Countermeasures to Improve Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety

Bicycles and pedestrians are among the most vulnerable users of our transportation system. In 2012, in the United States alone there were over 5,450 pedestrians and bicyclist fatalities which represents approximately 18% of the total highway fatalities according to the Fatality Analysis and Reporting System. While the interaction between bikes, pedestrians, and vehicles can be safe the reality is that a crash between a vehicle and a pedestrian or bicyclist can have fatal consequences. Therefore, the identification of safety countermeasures that can benefit pedestrians and bicycle users is subject worthy of exploration.

In general, the standard practice for evaluating safety countermeasures involves collecting crash data at locations where the countermeasures were implemented. As a result, the evaluation process is a slow one. Due to the nature of the process ineffective countermeasures could remain installed at a location without understanding their effectiveness. In the worst case scenario ineffective countermeasures could remain in place after proven as such if re-construction costs are prohibitive. To understand the effects of potential countermeasures this collaborative project between the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Traffic Operations and Safety Laboratory is being proposed.

The proposed collaborative project will use a full scale driving simulator to evaluate how drivers perform in an environment with safety countermeasures targeting pedestrian and bicyclist crashes. The approach proposed by the research team will not only help in better understanding (through the use of controlled experiments) how already proven countermeasures work but also provide the foundation to evaluate proposed countermeasures in the future before field installations. One of the benefits of the proposed approach is that existing and proposed countermeasures can be evaluated by adding a behavioral component to the process by not only monitoring vehicle performance and crash data to deem a countermeasure effective but also by understanding the drivers eye movements, their steering behavior, and low-level speed changes resulting from break and gas pedal positions.

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