A recent Australian study, titled “Exploring schema-driven differences in situation awareness between road users: an on-road study of driver, cyclist and motorcyclist situation awareness” examines situation awareness in drivers, motorcyclists and cyclists, identifying the key differences and potential conflicts that arise.
The key points or findings in the study are (I am pretty much quoting directly from the paper here). The full paper should really be read to get a good understanding of this interesting research.
Differences in situation awareness between drivers, motorcyclists and cyclists
Is that situation awareness is heavily influenced by schemata, transport mode and the nature of the road environment (e.g. intersection vs arterial road) and that these three factors combine to create differences in situation awareness between distinct road users. The authors suggest that this can be addressed through experience, training and education and targeted use of road design interventions.
Incompatibilities in situation awareness
At intersections, genotype schemata were similar among the three road user groups; however, the driver genotype did not incorporate the area behind or to the sides of the vehicle. Moreover, the driver phenotype was heavily focused on the traffic lights and the area in front of the vehicle. Analysis of the key concepts underpinning situation awareness showed that driver situation awareness was mainly underpinned by the lights and the status of the lights, along with a prominent focus on the intersection itself and the area in front of the vehicle. Although the cyclists and motorcyclists had a strong focus on other traffic and their behaviour in and around the intersection, the drivers did not. This could become problematic when cyclists and motorcyclists operate in intersection areas not incorporated within drivers’ genotype and phenotype schemata, such as behind and to the left- and right-hand sides of the vehicle.
From a road design point of view, the intersections studied do not support the interaction between different road users. For example, none currently alert drivers to the presence of motorcyclists and cyclists, nor do they offer any protection to the motorcyclists and cyclists as they pass through the intersection (e.g. dedicated cyclist lanes stop prior to the intersection, absence of filtering lanes), which in turn increases their variability in behaviour as they seek the safest way through the intersection.
The differences found in the other road environments were broadly found to be compatible. Along the arterial roads, the major differences in genotype schemata were that motorcyclists incorporate a focus on the sides of their vehicle whilst cyclists also focus on potentially moving into the service lane and also making constant checks of the traffic approaching from behind.
Supporting safe interactions between road users
More generally, the findings highlight the critical role of road design in supporting situation awareness among different road users and in ‘connecting’ road users. Consideration of different road user situation awareness requirements during the road design process is therefore proposed as an important step in reducing conflicts between different road users.
Currently, road designs are assessed through a conflict point analysis that focuses on physical pathways through road environments and the potential for road users to come into conflict with one another. It is argued that a failure to consider cognitive conﬂict points will prevent conﬂicts between different road users from being solved. The development of situation awareness networks via road user think aloud walkthroughs of road design concepts offers a simplistic low-cost avenue for considering different road user situation awareness requirements during the road design process.
Your Thoughts on Situational Awareness Are Most Welcome
Personally I found this paper a bit heavy going as the language and the context are not my field of expertise by any means but that said the paper’s findings are very interesting in my view and confirm so what my personal experiences. I am interested in hearing your thoughts on this paper and on situational awareness so please do take the opportunity to leave a comment below.
Reference – Situational Awareness
The full reference for the paper is below. Your local University library should be able to obtain a copy for you.
Salmon, P. M., Lenne, M.G., Walker, G. H., Stanton, N. A. & Filtness, A. (2014): Exploring schema-driven differences in situation awareness between road users: an on-road study of driver, cyclist and motorcyclist situation awareness. Ergonomics. Available at Taylor & Francis.