During the 1960s, the FHWA, known then as the Bureau of Public Roads and a division of the U.S. Department of Commerce, began conducting human factors and driver behavior studies To to understand the needs and limitations of transportation users. Two researchers with the Bureau of Public Roads, R. M. Michaels and B. W. Stephens, published a journal article in a 1963 issue of the Highway Research Record (predecessor of Transportation Research Record: Journal of the Transportation Research Board) titled "Driver Characteristics, Night Visibility, and Driving Simulation." The article described the use of a simulation experiment at the Bureau of Public Roads' laboratory to study driver performance by tracking activities, such as eye movements.
Another example of FHWA's ongoing support of transportation-related human factors research is a 1981 article by D. A. Gordon. This article, published in Public Roads, described several studies that examined the design of roadway signs using human factors principles, such as applying a correct legibility ratio on sign letters to help drivers read and understand these signs from a distance.
In subsequent years, FHWA's human factors team, with support from onsite technical contractors, has performed numerous studies using a variety of research tools to gain better understanding of the capabilities and limitations of drivers in the context of transportation infrastructure and improvements to enhance travel safety
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Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center
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