Learning to drive: from hazard detection to hazard handling

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Madigan, Mary Ruth
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University College Cork
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Hazard perception has been found to correlate with crash involvement, and has thus been suggested as the most likely source of any skill gap between novice and experienced drivers. The most commonly used method for measuring hazard perception is to evaluate the perception-reaction time to filmed traffic events. It can be argued that this method lacks ecological validity and may be of limited value in predicting the actions drivers’ will take to hazards encountered. The first two studies of this thesis compare novice and experienced drivers’ performance on a hazard detection test, requiring discrete button press responses, with their behaviour in a more dynamic driving environment, requiring hazard handling ability. Results indicate that the hazard handling test is more successful at identifying experience-related differences in response time to hazards. Hazard detection test scores were strongly related to performance on a driver theory test, implying that traditional hazard perception tests may be focusing more on declarative knowledge of driving than on the procedural knowledge required to successfully avoid hazards while driving. One in five Irish drivers crash within a year of passing their driving test. This suggests that the current driver training system does not fully prepare drivers for the dangers they will encounter. Thus, the third and fourth studies in this thesis focus on the development of two simulator-based training regimes. In the third study participants receive intensive training on the molar elements of driving i.e. speed and distance evaluation. The fourth study focuses on training higher order situation awareness skills, including perception, comprehension and projection. Results indicate significant improvement in aspects of speed, distance and situation awareness across training days. However, neither training programme leads to significant improvements in hazard handling performance, highlighting the difficulties of applying learning to situations not previously encountered.
Driving , Hazard perception , Driving simulator , Situation awareness , Speed , Transfer of learning , Distance
Madigan, M. R. 2013. Learning to drive: from hazard detection to hazard handling. PhD Thesis, University College Cork.