CONTACTTRAFFICABOUT TOM VANDERBILTOTHER WRITING CONTACT ABOUT THE BOOK

The Dilemma Zone

“Let us consider for a moment you are driving down the road and approaching a signalized junction. The scene in front of you is a dynamic one and is constantly evolving. The light is at present green but of course this may change. The intersection is also currently clear, but of course this may also change. Now let us run the scenario forward. As you approach the actual crossing, the visual angle between the traffic light and the forward view across the junction begins to increase. There comes a point in time where one cannot see both together. This is not a divided attention issue or one or foveal versus peripheral field of view, it is a simple question of structural interference, the driver’s eye cannot see both at the same time. The design efforts of traffic engineers in terms of sight lines, seek to reduce any such occurrences of ambiguity, and on most occasions they are very successful. However, let us consider this example as one of inherent ambiguity. Where is the driver to look? If you look at the light to see a possible change, one cannot look at the intersection and vice versa. The pragmatist will say that by the time the light changes, the junction should be free. However, the simple fact is that driving presents many such ambiguous situations in which, whatever “correct” action one is actually accomplishing, there is another equally “correct” action that one must neglect. What of distraction in such circumstances? Can we say the driver involved in a collision in such circumstances is distracted and is not driving with due care and attention?”

That’s one of the many interesting bits of a paper by P.A. Hancock, M. Mouloua, & J.W. Senders, “On the philosophical foundations of driving distraction and the distracted driver,” in a recent book titled Driver Distraction: Theory, Effects, and Mitigation.

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This entry was posted on Wednesday, February 25th, 2009 at 4:43 pm and is filed under Traffic Engineering, Traffic Psychology, Traffic safety. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

2 Responses to “The Dilemma Zone”

  1. Ian Hlavacek Says:

    I definitely tend to focus on the traffic. After all, the light may be green, yellow, red, blue, or polka-dot, but if there’s a car in my way, I’d better stop. For this reason, I typically will choose a spot past which I switch to focusing entirely on what’s on the road, light be damned. Usually, however, that’s close enough that there’s no chance I’d enter the intersection on a red.

  2. Matt Says:

    Adding lights to the opposite side of the junction helps (this is common in Britain, I can cycle to the front of the stopped traffic, possibly beyond the first light and the stop line, and almost always there are duplicate traffic lights on the other side of the junction).

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Traffic Tom Vanderbilt

How We Drive is the companion blog to Tom Vanderbilt’s New York Times bestselling book, Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us), published by Alfred A. Knopf in the U.S. and Canada, Penguin in the U.K, and in languages other than English by a number of other fine publishers worldwide.

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