What does the driver look at? The influence of intersection characteristics on attention allocation and driving behavior

Accid Anal Prev. 2012 Mar:45:610-9. doi: 10.1016/j.aap.2011.09.048. Epub 2011 Nov 4.


One of the main contributing factors with intersection accidents is lack of information due to attention allocation. In many cases, drivers fail to yield right of way to other traffic participants. One reason is that drivers have inappropriate expectations about a traffic situation. They allocate their attention primarily to certain areas of the intersection but neglect others. In a driving simulator study, the influence of intersection complexity on drivers' expectations and their driving behavior was examined. In two T-intersections, the complexity was varied by the traffic density (low and high) using either one or two important objects: vehicles (left) with or without pedestrians (right). Additionally, the reaction to two critical incidents in close proximity of the intersections was examined. Gaze behavior, vehicle reactions, and subjective data were recorded. 40 subjects (26 male, 14 female, M=31.0 years, SD=11.9 years) participated in the study. Interestingly, the least complex intersections showed the most accidents which was interpreted as the result of inadequate attention allocation. It was shown that both the drivers' attention allocation and vehicle velocity when turning off were responsible for this effect. The results contribute to a better understanding of the role of drivers' expectation and attention allocation in the causation of intersection accidents.

MeSH terms

  • Accidents, Traffic / prevention & control*
  • Accidents, Traffic / psychology
  • Adult
  • Attention*
  • Automobile Driving / psychology*
  • Computer Simulation
  • Female
  • Fixation, Ocular*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Orientation
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual*
  • Reaction Time
  • Risk Assessment
  • Saccades
  • Young Adult