The RAC Foundation has long campaigned for reduced signage and clutter on our roads to help make streets more attractive and, in many instances, the roads easier to negotiate. It is for example well known that ’too much information’ can ‘overload’ drivers and have a detrimental effect on their ability to drive safely. ’Naked streets’ have, where trialled, proved largely effective at both improving streetscapes and road safety especially in urban environments where the road is shared by many different methods of transport. It is however important to get the balance right, (See PACTS report on shared space initiatives) and as the debate progresses all interested parties will need to ensure the pendulum doesn’t swing too far in the opposite direction!
Archive for the ‘Too much information?’ Category
Do you get distracted while driving? This is the question which is being asked by the Highways Agency who are currently undertaking research to examine the factors that could potentially cause drivers to be distracted whilst driving.
Some of these factors may be within the vehicle; such as satellite navigation systems or other passengers. Other factors might be outside the vehicle such as attractive scenery, accidents, advertisements, or landmark buildings.
To take part in the survey, which takes around 10 minutes to complete visit http://www.highways.gov.uk/knowledge/17859.aspx
What will happen when the new ‘multi-tasking’ generation are old enough to buy and drive a car? This was one of the questions that came to mind after reading an article in Wednesday’s Guardian, which discussed new research from Childwise, which looks at how children make use of their time.
The study of 1,150 five to sixteen year olds found that 79% of children had a TV in their own room and 58% watched TV during the evening meal. It also found that children, due to the greater availability of multi-media were not paying one activity their whole attention, and could be found flicking channels, surfing the web and chatting to friends all at the same time.
This new approach to activity management may well have implications beyond childhood. If the adults of tommorrow are more able to multi-task will it mean that they can juggle all the distractions in a car, such as sat navs, children, radios and phones? Or will it mean that they do not pay sufficient attention to any part of the driving activity?
We will obviously have to wait and see what impact of these new trends in activity attention, but if a future contains cars that drive themselves (as has been recently reported and argued) the new generation of drivers are likely to feel right at home in what will be a multi-media rich environment.
Source: The Guardian 16th January 2008 – Life through a lense: how Britain’s children eat, sleep and breathe TV
Driver distraction remains a hot topic when it comes to road safety, and some new research has just been published which sheds some further light on the issue.
New research from The NSW Injury Risk Management Research Centre in Sydney Australia suggests that listening to the radio or your childs DVD player in the backseat is not as distracting as some think. The study looked at the impact of that no audio materials, audio materials from a movie and audio from the radio had on distraction (lateral control, speed control and response to hazards) and interestingly, audio materials of all types were found to have a minimal impact on distraction. The reason put forward for this was that listening while driving is well practiced and does not involve speech production and therefore the research suggests that no regulation is needed, although further real world (rather than simulated) tests are recommended*.
So where does this lead incar safety screen, such as those provided with some satelitte navigation systems? New research assessing the safety impact of invehicle information systems for use in tunnels** actually found that in-vehicle information systems can improve safety, improve driver’s situational awareness and reduce anxiety, but they may also increase mental workload and distraction in some circumstances. Specific study details were as follows;
“Using the displays, drivers improved their speed control but had some difficulty in maintaining lane stability, apparently due to some distraction imposed by the displays. Yet, neither of them increased the mental workload relative to driving without a display. The drivers found the in-vehicle displays useful and responded well to the presented information. The drivers preferred the more informative display to the minimalist display, although it slightly increased distraction from road.”
“In light of the potential benefits of in-vehicle displays, the level of distraction was relatively minor and should not compromise driving safety. Apparently, the highly informative display provided drivers with more information that reduced anxiety and boredom, which are common psychological experiences during tunnel driving. Thus, safety-related information displays can be added to improve safety even when some of their benefits are offset by increased distraction.”
The RAC Foundation believes that technology has a role to play in improving driver safety, but they need to be used with care and common sense. These new pieces of research once again supports the finding that less (in terms of in car stimulatants) is not always more in terms of road safety and it is important that the right balance is struck.
* Hatfield, J. and Chamberlain, T. (2007) The effect of audio materials from a rear-seat audiovisual entertainment system or from radio on simulated driving IN: Transportation Research Part F: Traffic Psychology and Behaviour Volume 11, Issue 1, January 2008, Pages 52-60
** Vashitz et al (2007) In-vehicle information systems to improve traffic safety in road tunnels IN: Transportation Research Part F: Traffic Psychology and Behaviour
Volume 11, Issue 1, January 2008, Pages 61-74
A recent survey conducted by sat- nav manufacturer Garmin revealed that half of drivers couldn’t name a road they enjoyed driving on.
One in three people thought the M25 was the worst road to drive on and London was voted the worst city to drive in.
Top 10 worst roads in Britain
3. Spaghetti Junction in Birmingham
4. North Circular in London
5. Oxford Circus
7. Hanger Lane Gyratory in London
8. South Circular in London
Top 10 best roads in Britain
1. A591 Keswick to Windermere
2. A82 Glasgow to Fort William
3. A38 Exeter to Plymouth
4. M48 across the Severn Bridge
5. A696 Newcastle-upon-Tyne to the Scottish Borders
6. A3 overlooking the Devil’s Punchbowl
7. A1 or A167 at the Angel of the North
8. A537 out of Macclesfield
9. A25 Dorking to Guildford
10. Oxford Street in London
Traffic jams, followed by accidents, boring scenery and confusing road signs were the reasons given for unpleasant and uninspiring driving; one of which the RAC Foundation believes can be easily remedied- less road signs! See our blog on our campaign against street clutter with the Commission for the Protection of Rural England.
ADAC, the German automobile association, is now almost a decade into its war against unnecessary traffic signs, the reason for which is that the sheer multitude of signs is proving to be a safety hazard by distracting drivers. An interesting array of signs can be found within Germany’s ‘Schilderwald’ or sign forest, including:
- ’Pedestrians Only’ signs- at entrances which clearly would not allow a bicycle to fit through, let alone a car;
- ‘Residential Area’ signs- in the middle of housing estates;
- Signs which inform drivers that they are on a ‘dirty road’
- Multiple identical signs at a single intersection;
- Blank signs.
This penchant for signage is down to the Germans’ historic like for “clear rules,” notes a German civil servant*. However- these rules it would seem, are not actually creating a good level of road safety, with Germany ranking 8th highest for the rate of injuries from road accidents out of 21 countries**.
ADAC patrol the roads looking out for these ‘distracting’ signs, covering them with hoods to indicate plans for removal, and- if nobody complains within a few weeks- they are knocked down. Yet, whilst some of these signs are sold on for scrap, others are put in storage in case they are needed again- defeats the object no?
The RAC Foundation, who have also been campaigning to reduce the number of traffic signs in England’s rural areas, calling for a “crackdown on countryside clutter” with the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England, are pleased to see that our European neighbours are also taking the hazards of signage seriously, and hope that more countries will do so in the future.
* The Wall Street Journal Online
** Survey by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development