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Publication Number: FHWA-HRT-05-078
Date: November 2005

Driver Attitudes and Behaviors at Intersections and Potential Effectiveness of Engineering Countermeasures

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APPENDIX B. MODERATOR’S GUIDE

INTRODUCTION [10 minutes]

Good Evening. My name is Eileen Michaels and I am the moderator for today’s discussion. As you were probably told by the person who called you, we will be here for about 2 hours and the purpose of today’s group is to talk about a number of topics related to yourselves, driving, and intersections. We are more interested in hearing about your own experiences than those of others you know.

SELF DISCLOSURES: I work for a company that provides research to clients on a wide variety of subjects. I travel around the country talking to groups like yours and giving them opportunities to share their thoughts, ideas and feelings. That’s what we’ll do here tonight.

Please remember, my job is to report what you have to say back to my client, the Federal Highway Administration of the U.S. Department of Transportation. I have no vested interest in your answers. I am not here to sell you anything and my job will continue regardless of how you answer. Thus, I encourage you to be honest and feel free to offer both positive and negative comments.

BROADER DISCLOSURES: You may have noticed that there is a mirror on that wall. [Substitute Camera for Seattle, WA, Groups]. It is actually a two-way mirror and people from the organization I am working for today are sitting on the other side of the glass to hear what you have to say.

As you also may have noticed, this session is being videotaped. This is not because I want to keep track of “who said what“ but more to keep a record of today’s information for my report. I do a lot of these groups in many cities and it would be difficult for me to remember the specifics of each group without having something to help verify what I’m reporting. I assure you, the tape will be used for no other purpose.

GROUND RULES: Before we get started, I’d like to go over some ground rules to help me get the information I need and help you get an idea about how focus groups work.

  1. Please speak clearly and one at a time so that everyone in the group can hear you. Also, keep your voice level at least as loud as mine is now so that the tape can pick up what you say.
  2. Since focus groups are conducted with complete confidentiality, we are using first names only. None of you will be identified by name in my report or anywhere else.
  3. You are each being paid for your time to be here because we are interested in what you have to say. Thus, it is important that we hear from everyone. There will be times when you may be the only one in the group that feels a particular way. Please speak up when this occurs as this group represents a larger population. You may not think the same way as anyone in this room, but you may be representing the ideas of thousands of other people that are not here tonight. All opinions are valuable. There are no right or wrong answers.
  4. At any time feel free to get up and get additional refreshments or go to the rest room if you would like. Smoking is not permitted inside the session.

Are there any questions? OK, before we begin, let’s go around the room and introduce ourselves by giving our first names and a brief description of where we’d be and what we’d be doing if we weren’t here right now. I’ll go first: I’m Eileen, and if I weren’t here I’d probably still be at work, writing up a report on a focus group like this one.

Now that we all know each other, let’s get started.

II. GENERAL DRIVING [10 minutes]

A. Warmup Exercises (Flip chart)

Now, we need you to think back a little bit to your early driving days. How did you learn to drive? What type of on-the-road training or driver education did you have? Are there any key things you will always remember about that experience? Any that you still apply to driving today?

If you were teaching a friend or younger brother/sister to drive (child for older groups), what are the most important things you would tell them?

II. GENERAL DRIVING [10 minutes]III. DRIVING IN INTERSECTIONS [10 minutes]

Now lets go back to those driving lessons. Discussions about driving can cover many topics but we are most interested in finding out about your driving at intersections. Were there any situations that happened at intersections or instructions that you learned that you still use to this day? Any rules that your instructor impressed upon you that you know you should use but don’t? If so, why don’t you still use them? What would cause you to use them again?

How many of you have had crashes or near-misses in intersections? What happened? Was it your fault? Did these incidents do anything to change your driving behaviors? In what ways? What about “wake-up call situations” or driving incidents that might have turned out worse?

Have you ever received a ticket or warning for running a red light? Circumstances? Did that change your driving behavior in any way?

IV. INTERSECTION SCENARIO DISCUSSION [Total 60 minutes]

I’m going to describe and show you pictures of different situations that can occur when driving through intersections and then ask you some questions about each. These are representative scenarios for the purposes of discussion.

A. Scenario 1: Red-Light Running [20 minutes]

You are driving alone and approaching an intersection with a traffic light when it turns yellow. You are far enough away from the intersection that you can stop if you brake hard, but are likely to enter the intersection while the light is turning red if you accelerate. [Note Objectives: What do you do? What are you looking at? What are you thinking?

[Probe: What do you do? ? OK, show of hands-How many of you would speed up to get through the light? How many of you would stop?]

1. Cognitive decisionmaking aspects to go or stop on late yellow (15 minutes)

What goes into your decision to go/stop? How do you decide what you are going to do?

[Probe: What are you thinking? Do you think about it or is it more automatic?]

[Probe: What goes through your mind? Are there times when you don’t see the light until it is too late?]

Do you ever plan a response as you approach an intersection or do you decide on the fly when you get there? [Probe: Issue slamming on the brakes versus not wanting to stop.]

As you approach the intersection, what are you looking at or monitoring? What information about the situation do you use to make your decision? [Probe: Do you see the light?]

Are there other factors that would make you act differently in this situation? What about factors that make your decision more difficult?

[Probe: What are you thinking? What if you had someone in your car? Your child? Your spouse? Friends? Do you act differently with family versus friend(s)? Why?]

2. Complicating Factors (5 minutes)

OK. I am going to go through a list of things that might impact your decision go through or stop at the light. For each one tell me if you think it would make a difference. How?

  • The presence of oncoming drivers waiting to turn left.
  • Heavy traffic congestion and long delays at intersections.
  • Poor visibility conditions (e.g., fog, nighttime, etc.).
  • Glare from oncoming vehicles. Does glare ever make traffic signals harder to see?
  • Poor traction conditions (e.g., rain, icy/snow, etc.).
  • Intersection terrain (uphill, downhill, flat).

Anything else I should know about red-light running? OK. Let’s get to the next scenario.

B. Scenario 2: Left Turns at Busy Intersections [15 minutes]

You are stopped in the middle of a busy intersection waiting to turn left. An oncoming car is also waiting to turn left, making it hard to see other vehicles approaching in the next lane. There is no dedicated turning lane and no dedicated turn signal. There are also other cars behind you waiting to turn left (or go straight). [Note Objectives: What do you do? What are you looking at? What are you thinking?]

1. Cognitive Decisionmaking Aspects (10 minutes)

If you had to break down your thinking about this step by step, how would you describe your actions? [Probe: What are you doing? Does anyone creep forward to get a better view? Accelerate quickly? Stay there and wait until the light turns red?]

Do any of you have special techniques or tricks you use to see better?

When you identify a gap what do you do? How do know if you have enough space to make your turn? How would you describe the size of a gap that you are comfortable with? [Probe: Do other things come into play (i.e., weather)?]

What else goes into your decision to turn? [Probe: What are you thinking? Do you try to judge the speed of oncoming cars? What about the distance to cross?]

Are there other factors that would make you act differently in this situation?

[Probe: What are you thinking? What if you had someone in your car? Your child? Your spouse? Friends? Do you act differently with family versus friend(s)? Why?]

Does it change things if you know the intersection?

2. Complicating Factors (5 minutes)

OK. I am going to go through a list of things that might impact your decision to turn. For each one tell me if you think it would make a difference. How?

  • The presence of other cars behind you, waiting to turn/go straight.
  • Heavy traffic or long delays at intersections.
  • The presence of pedestrians/bicyclists crossing in the turn path.
  • Poor visibility (e.g., fog or nighttime).
  • Glare from oncoming vehicles (probe: Does this make gap judgments harder?).
  • Others?

C. Scenario 3: Turning Left on Major Road with Moderate Traffic [15 minutes]

You are stopped on a minor road with a stop sign, waiting to turn left onto a major road with no stop signs. A steady flow of vehicles is crossing in both directions at high speeds. [Note objectives: What do you do? What are you thinking? What are you looking at?]

1. Cognitive Decisionmaking Aspects (10 minutes)

If you had to break down your thinking about this step by step, how would you describe your actions? [Probe: What are you doing? Do you stop at the line? Find a sufficient gap? Probe: What are you looking at? Creep forward to get a better view? Check for pedestrians crossing? Accelerate quickly?]

When you look for a gap, how do you know it is large enough for you to go?

What size gap are you comfortable with? Do other factors come into play? Do other circumstance make the decision to turn more difficult? [Probe: What are you thinking? Speed, distance to cross, etc.?]

How would things be different if you were making a right turn? What about going straight through?

Are there other factors that would make you act differently in this situation?

[Probe: What are you doing? What if you had someone in your car? Your child? Your spouse? Friends? Do you act differently with family versus friend(s)? Why?]

Does it change things if you know the intersection?

2. Complicating Factors (5 minutes)

Like the last one, I am going to go through a list of things that might affect your ability to judge gaps in traffic or your decision to make the turn. Again, tell me if or how they would make a difference.

  • The presence of other cars behind you, waiting to turn/go straight.
  • Heavy traffic or long delays at intersections.
  • The presence of pedestrians/bicyclists crossing in the turn path.
  • Poor visibility (e.g., fog or nighttime).
  • Glare from oncoming vehicles (Probe: Does this make gap judgments harder?).
  • Poor traction conditions (e.g., rain, icy/snow, etc.).
  • Others?

D. Scenario 4: Rear-End Crashes [15 minutes]

Here’s a situation we’ve all been in. You are approaching an intersection at full speed when the car in front of you stops suddenly when the light changes to yellow. What do you do? Let’s assume you need to slam on the brakes in order to avoid a collision. [Note objectives: What do you do then? What are you thinking? What are you looking at?]

1. Cognitive Decisionmaking Aspects (10 minutes)

Have you ever been in a situation like this in which you actually crashed into the vehicle in front of you? Any near-misses? What caused it? Do you think anything could have been done to avoid it? [Probe: Are you surprised versus not able to stop?]

Do you ever do anything before a situation like this develops? How might you see it coming? Is there anything you can do to anticipate slowing or stopping in the vehicle ahead of you? Can you tell by other factors [traffic light, brake lights, other cars, signs, etc.]? How important are these indicators?

How closely do you typically follow other vehicles? How would you compare your own habits to other drivers’? What makes you drive closer to or further away from other vehicles? Do you think this makes a difference?

Are there other factors that would make you act differently in this situation?

[Probe: What are you doing? What if you had someone in your car? Your child? Your spouse? Friends? Do you act differently with family versus friend(s)? Why?]

Does it change things if you know the intersection?

2. Complicating Factors (5 minutes)

Do any of these factors make a difference in how close you follow or your ability to predict when the vehicle in front of you will slow or stop? If yes, how?

  • Vehicle type.
  • Heavy traffic or long delays at intersections.
  • Poor visibility (e.g., fog or nighttime).
  • Headlight glare from oncoming vehicles. [Probe: Glare from other causes.]
  • Poor traction conditions (e.g., rain, icy/snow, etc.).
  • Whether the intersection is on a hill or flat.
  • Others?

V. COUNTERMEASURES [Total 25 Minutes]

Now I will show you some images with ways to improve or prevent some of the four intersection situations we have been talking about. You will recognize these pictures from earlier, with added changes.

In each case we will discuss your thoughts about:

  1. Whether it helps solve the problem.
  2. Whether it will improve safety.
  3. Advantages and disadvantages.

[Moderator’s Note: remain sensitive to whether respondents clearly match scenarios to appropriate countermeasures.

A. Red-Light Running [13 minutes]

  1. Red-light cameras.
  2. Advanced warning signs with active flashers (that indicate the light is about to turn yellow).
  3. Increasing traffic light visibility.
  4. Intersection collision warning systems

B. Left Turns at Busy Intersections [7 minutes]

  1. Protected left-turn signals (define).

C. Left on Major Road with Moderate Traffic [5 minutes]

  1. Automated systems that inform driver of the suitability of gaps
  2. Synchronized adjacent traffic signals that create gaps

D. Rear-End Crashes [5 minutes]

  1. Intersection rumble strips to draw attention to the intersection.
  2. Improve traction from skid-control surfaces or better drainage.

[Probe: Not stopping fast enough versus not paying attention.]

Now, I am going to leave all of these up here and I will have { NAME } get you to look at each of these one more time and see if you have anything to add about these countermeasures or other ideas you might have to discuss the driving scenarios we talked about today. { NAME } If you could please record the responses of the group, I am going to confer with my client and be right back.

VI. CLOSE [5 Minutes]

Thank you again for taking the time to come out and talk with us this evening. Before you go, I want to let you know that along with your stipend you will be given a take-home survey. Please fill it out and send it into us, while it is all still fresh in your mind. Before closing, are there any additional thoughts you’d like to offer about the topics we discussed? [If not, conclude the session, if so, briefly allow additional thoughts to come forward.] The person at the front desk will give you your stipend for participating tonight.

 

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