Terry, H. R., Charlton, S. G., & Perrone, J. A. (2008). The role of looming and attention capture in drivers’ braking responses. Accident Analysis & Prevention, 40(4), 1375-1382.
Permanent Research Commons link: http://hdl.handle.net/10289/8278
This study assessed the ability of drivers to detect the deceleration of a preceding vehicle in a simulated vehicle-following task. The size of the preceding vehicles (car, van, or truck) and following speeds (50, 70, or 100 km/h) were systematically varied. Participants selected a preferred following distance by engaging their vehicle's cruise control and when the preceding vehicle began decelerating (no brake lights were illuminated), the participant's braking latency and distances to the lead vehicle were recorded. The experiment also employed a secondary task condition to examine how the attention-capturing properties of a looming vehicle were affected by driver distraction. The results indicated that a looming stimulus is capable of redirecting a driver's attention in a vehicle following task and, as with detection of brake lights, a driver's detection of a looming vehicle is compromised in the presence of a distracting task. Interestingly, increases in vehicle size had the effect of decreasing drivers’ braking latencies and drivers engaged in the secondary task were significantly closer to the lead vehicle when they began braking, regardless of the size of the leading vehicle. Performance decrements resulting from the secondary task were reflected in a time-to-collision measure but not in optic expansion rate, lending support to earlier arguments that time-to-collision estimates require explicit cognitive judgements while perception of optic expansion may function in a more automatic fashion to redirect a driver's attention when cognitive resources are low or collision is imminent.