Sunday , 9 August 2020

Emergency Driving, Risk Perception, Observation and training methods

Following recent improvements in the field of eye-tracking, STS is now using drive simulations with eye tracking and retrospective think aloud training to provide a safer and more effective training method. The major impact is to improve observation and risk awareness, whilst providing an effective training environment for the organisation of a drivers vision characteristics. We can now demonstrate on a large screen the types of vision characteristics that can improve a drivers decision making, making them safer. We can also observe their individual vision characteristics and provide them feedback, whilst in a training room, and not distracting them with the need to talk through all of their decision making (concurrent think aloud).

For example, the driver of this bus will need to systematically check his left mirror before moving left and stopping for passengers to avoid colliding with the two wheeler that is trying to pass on the left side. At 30 km/h, there is enough reaction time, and physical ability for both drivers to take evasive action. The same evasive action from a two wheeler on a highway at 100 km/h will often result in a loss of control, the rider leaving the road and impacting an object at a fatal speed.

In training drivers to systematically check, it becomes habit after a period of three weeks. The driver barely needs to try, as their scanning behaviour is now a habit, and they are almost unaware they are doing it.

In addition to a systematic approach, we can then train drivers to consider what if? What if that two wheeler swerved in front of us, what would you do? Brake? But who is behind you? Is there a large truck with poor brakes very close? Perhaps a better option is to swerve right where there is no danger?

These thoughts and skills that are taught to Emergency drivers, and when applied long enough, they become habit, so much so, that when drivers get into a position where there is no escape route, and the speed is too high, they immediately change speed or road position, so that they are in a position where they have more options if something was to happen. This is the essence of defensive driving.

Research has been conducted into a driver’s gaze during periods of varying sensory input (busy traffic for example). Visual stimuli in the peripheral vision affected eye movements during driving. Where participants had fewer hazards to observe, the eye fixations were steady in a forward gaze on to the road, and when faced with a situation of higher stimuli, such as an intersection, the eye fixations occurred frequently to a wider angle of view. This research found that visual attention may scatter in a situation where there are many objects to be processed.

This suggests that when a driver in India is faced with so much to look at, he can become overwhelmed, and therefore tends to limit his vision to look forward, and then utilise his hearing to take cues from other traffic.

It follows that there is the potential to “organise” a driver’s eye fixations, to a more systematic approach to enable a driver to habitually check all areas of risk in comparison with the unorganised eye fixations that can develop when there is no training. For Emergency Drivers in particular, this skill is vital when negotiating busy intersections under stressful conditions.

The initial pilot study of training on a replay of driving environments, shows participants rapidly improved observational capacity and were able to readily apply the observational techniques and risk awareness principles in the real on road environment.

Thus we are entering an new exciting phase in training drivers to a high standard with the use of modern technology.

The technology – ‘Eye Tracking’ – tracks where a student is looking when he is seated in front of a replay of normal driving conditions.

The student observes all the hazards, and this recording is played back to him, with a trace of where he looked, so that we can see what he missed, and what he did well. The summary is plotted on a graph to demonstrate the overall pattern of his vision. Below is an example of the change in plotting that occurs after training.

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