Psychology and Road Design - Conclusion

In conclusion, I hope this presentation has shown that considering the psychology of road users can help us design and implement more effective road designs and safety improvement schemes

I end with the following two ideas:

(i) First: Human beings are not machines. We have a broad range of abilities and we all make mistakes from time to time. So we need to consider what goes on in the head of our typical road user, and not stick rigidly to design guidelines or past practice, and

(ii) Second: Motorists won't obey a speed limit if they can't see what it's for. Simply erecting speed limit signs can be ineffective. So we need to consider additional ways to improve safety, some of which might not include reducing the speed limit at all


Further Reading

Much of the information in this presentation came from these books:

(i) 'Traffic' by Tom Vanderbilt (ISBN 978-0-141-02739-5) is an excellent non-technical examination of why road users behave the way they do, covering diverse topics such as perception, robot controlled cars, the psychology of congestion and commuters, different behaviours in other countries, and estimating risk

(ii) 'The Psychology of Driving' by Graham Hole (ISBN 0-8058-5978-0) is a more in-depth look at topics such as perception, attention and distraction, risk, fatigue, old age, and what's in store in the future

(iii) 'Human Factors of Visual and Cognitive Performance in Driving' edited by Candida Castro (ISBN 978-1-4200-5530-6) is an in-depth look at topics including how our vision works, the effects of various road design elements, and the science of not getting hit

(iv) 'Human Factors for Highway Engineers' edited by Ray Fuller and Jorge A. Santos (ISBN 0-08-043412-6) is another in-depth look at topics like ergonomics, driver training, self-explaining roads, vision, perception, mental workload, young pedestrians and cyclists, and elderly road users

(v) 'Advances in Traffic Psychology' edited by Mark Sullman and Lisa Dorn (ISBN 978-1-4094-5004-7) is an in-depth look at topics such as driver personality, emotions and stress, distractions and inattention, vulnerable road users, hazard perception and risk, and in-vehicle technologies

(vi) 'Handbook of Traffic Psychology' edited by Bryan E. Porter (ISBN 978-0-12-381984-0) is an in-depth look at topics including variations in mental models, neuroscience, mental health and driving, speeding, young children, motorcyclists, driver education, enforcement, and road use behaviour in Sub-Saharan Africa

(vii) 'Psychology - A Student's Handbook' by Michael W. Eysenck (ISBN 0-86377-475-X) is a comprehensive reference book for general psychology, not just traffic psychology

(viii) 'The Crowd - Extraordinary Popular Delusions - Twin Classics of Crowd Psychology' by Gustave Le Bon and Charles MacKay (ISBN 0-934380-23-6) is a partial reprint of two famous books on crowd psychology, first published in 1841 and 1897

I started this presentation with some paragraphs of text, and I finish it with another:

'Rumour has it that you are the stupid idiot who objected to the 40 mph speed. So I suggest you either slow down, or better still use a different road or best of all get caught speeding and be banned for life'

This is one of the comments I received on a returned questionnaire. It shows that road safety can be an emotional and controversial subject

But I also think it serves as a useful reminder that ultimately we're dealing with people's expectations


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