Saving us from ourselves: Human factors and the design of safer roads

Tuesday, February 9, 2010 - 11:00am

Presentation and Materials

About the Event

The field of human factors addresses how user characteristics and limitations affect driver interaction with vehicles and with the roadway environment and how human performance can be improved. However, human factors experts are frequently unaware of the explicit safety consequences of this interaction. The field of explicit road safety addresses the outcome of that interaction through analysis of crash statistics, but the inner workings of the human user are a black box. This talk will address the connection between the two fields using examples of human limitations (e.g., perception of closing velocity), how these contribute to crashes (e.g., rear-end and turning crashes), and how they can be considered explicitly in road design policy (e.g., intersection sight distance) and countermeasures, such as protected left turns.


Alison Smiley is an adjunct professor in the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering at the University of Toronto and an adjunct professor in the Department of Civil Engineering at Ryerson University. She has more than 30 years of experience in human factors research and application and has conducted numerous field experiments to look at the effects of shiftwork, medical conditions, experience, fatigue, lighting, alcohol, and drugs on performance. She has conducted large-scale experimental studies involving assessment of legibility, comprehension, and information load of highway signs.