Thursday, July 22, 2010

Pedestrian Thinking

"Unlike the street signs in most cities (including New Orleans) that are attached to poles and displayed high, these can’t be seen by drivers. These are designed for pedestrians, and perhaps bikers, using sidewalks. They reflect a time when planners were designing the city for people on foot." [from Sociological Images]

Monday, July 19, 2010


TITLE: Wanna drive? driving anxiety and fear in a New Zealand community sample
AUTHOR: Taylor, J & Paki, D.
JOURNAL: New Zealand Journal of Psychology, July 2008
ABSTRACT: "Driving anxiety can impact everyday functioning and is common following motor vehicle crashes. However, no research has investigated its general community prevalence, despite the consistent finding that driving anxiety is not always a function of a vehicle crash. The present study explored the frequency and characteristics of driving anxiety and fear in a general community convenience sample of 100 participants who completed a questionnaire about driving anxiety, avoidance behaviour, and types of driving-related cognitions. Most of the sample described no anxiety, fear, or avoidance in relation to driving. However, 8% reported moderate to extreme anxiety about driving, and 7% described moderate to extreme driving fear. Women reported more driving anxiety, fear, and avoidance than men. These results indicate the need for more formal methods of establishing prevalence to clearly ascertain the extent of population-based driving anxiety and fear and its effects, so that research can begin to focus on developing effective treatment approaches for those whose anxiety has a psychological and functional impact." [full text]

MY TAKE: This study is trying to find out how common driving anxiety is in the general public.  Moderate to severe anxiety (significant enough to have a noticeable effect on their life) was found in 8% of the sample. I think that would have to be considered a pretty large proportion. As is usually the case driving anxiety was more common in women, although general trait anxiety was the same in both genders. The situations rated as most stressful were being tailgated, motorways, fog and heavy traffic.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

EXPERIMENTAL REPORT: Driver stress and performance on a driving simulator

TITLE: Driver stress and performance on a driving simulator
AUTHOR: Matthews, G., Dorn, L., Hoyes, T.W., Davies, D.R., Glendon, A.I., Taylor, R.G.
JOURNAL: Hum Factors. 1998 Mar;40(1):136-49.
ABSTRACT:  "Effects of stress on driving performance can depend on the nature of driver's stress reactions and on the traffic environment. In an experimental study, we assessed multiple dimensions of vulnerability to driver stress by a questionnaire that was validated in previous field studies and related those dimensions to performance on a driving simulator. Results were broadly consistent with prediction. A dimension of habitual dislike of driving was associated with reduced control skills, greater caution, and disturbance of moods. A measure of aggressive driving predicted more frequent and more error-prone overtaking, which are effects attributed to the use of confrontive coping strategies in interaction with other vehicles. An alertness measure predicted speed of reaction to pedestrian hazards. This research has practical applications for system design, automated monitoring of driver performance, selection and assessment of drivers, and training."
MY TAKE ON IT: One thing that seems to be missing for discussion of driving phobia is the extent to which it is not purely irrational.  This study shows that dislike of driving was associated with having poorer driving control skills making more frequent driving errors, caution when driving and stress. The suggestion is that stressed drivers might not have any more accidents, but this may be not because they have normal skill levels, but because the avoid taking risks.