How do drivers overtake pedestrians? Evidence from field test and naturalistic driving data

Accid Anal Prev. 2020 May;139:105494. doi: 10.1016/j.aap.2020.105494. Epub 2020 Mar 20.


For pedestrians, the risk of dying in a traffic accident is highest on rural roads, which are often characterized by a lack of sidewalks and high traffic speed. In fact, hitting the pedestrian during an overtaking attempt is a common crash scenario. To develop active safety systems that avoid such crashes, it is necessary to understand and model driver behavior during the overtaking maneuvers, so that system interventions are acceptable because they happen outside drivers' comfort zone. Previous modeling of driver behavior in interactions with pedestrians primarily focused on road crossing scenarios. The aim of this study was, instead, to address pedestrian-overtaking maneuvers on rural roads. We focused our analysis on how drivers adjust their behavior with respect to three safety metrics (in order of importance): 1) minimum lateral clearance when passing the pedestrian, 2) overtaking speed at that moment, and 3) the time-to-collision at the moment of steering away to start the overtaking maneuver. The influence of three factors on the safety metrics was investigated: 1) walking direction (same as the overtaking vehicle or opposite), 2) walking position (on the edge of the vehicle lane or 0.5 m away from the edge on the paved shoulder), and 3) oncoming traffic (absent or present). Seventy-seven overtaking maneuvers in France from the naturalistic driving study UDRIVE and 297 maneuvers in Sweden from field tests were analyzed. Bayesian regression was used to model how minimum lateral clearance and overtaking speed depended on the three factors. Results showed that drivers maintained smaller minimum lateral clearance and lower overtaking speed when the pedestrian was walking in the opposite direction, on the lane edge, or when oncoming traffic was present. Minimum lateral clearance and time-to-collision were only weakly correlated with overtaking speed. The regression models predicted distributions similar to those actually observed in the data. The time-to-collision at the moment of steering away was comparable in value to the time-to-collision used by Euro NCAP for testing active safety systems in car-to-pedestrian longitudinal scenarios since 2018. This study is the first to analyze driver behavior when overtaking pedestrians, based on field test and naturalistic driving data. Results suggest that pedestrian safety is particularly endangered in situations when the pedestrian is walking opposite to traffic, close to the lane, and when oncoming traffic is present. The Bayesian regression models from this study can be used in active safety systems to model drivers' comfort in overtaking maneuvers.

Keywords: Bayesian regression modeling; Comfort zone; Driver behavior; Euro NCAP; Overtaking; Pedestrian safety.

MeSH terms

  • Accidents, Traffic / prevention & control*
  • Accidents, Traffic / statistics & numerical data
  • Automobile Driving / psychology*
  • Bayes Theorem
  • Humans
  • Pedestrians*
  • Risk Assessment
  • Rural Population
  • Walking / statistics & numerical data