From The Ergoweb® Learning Center

How to Warn Drivers of the Road Ahead

What’s the most effective way to warn drivers of potentially foul-weather or other problematic driving conditions? That’s what human factors- and transportation-engineers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison are hoping to find out in a new project aimed at improving driver and driving safety.

The project, sponsored by the Wisconsin Traffic Operations and Safety Laboratory (TOPS), is seeking to find ways to make the roads safer by predicting weather-related problems and finding effective ways of communicating these problems to already-busy drivers. If drivers know in advance what conditions they might be facing, they can plan and prepare and possibly reduce weather-related driving errors.

The first step of the project is determining what types of weather conditions to look for at each segment of road and how to predict what drivers might encounter. According to David Noyce, assistant professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, “We’re trying to develop a road-weather safety audit procedure which proactively incorporates this weather information–on top of engineering elements–so that we can predict where countermeasures might be needed.”

In addition to predicting the weather, the project also needs input from human factors engineers to find the best way to inform drivers of weather conditions. Would drivers, for example, be more apt to pay attention to flashing road signs or would in-dash systems make a bigger impact? Will drivers listen to weather reports on the radio or should they seek information via their cell phones?

“When you take out the unknowns and you increase expectancy of what’s coming up, driver error is much less, so drivers can correct their flow and control based on these kinds of conditions,” said Todd Szymkowski, TOPS program manager, in a university press statement.

Confirmed Noyce, the program is hoping to make drivers less reactive and more prepared: if drivers know beforehand that there’s a good chance of a snowstorm or dense fog, they may be able to make it through the foul weather more safely.

Source: University of Wisconsin-Madison