In recent years, national attention on driver distraction has increased among the transportation community, the media, and the public. Texting and cell phone use while driving, for example, are major safety concerns because of their role as contributing factors in a growing number of vehicle crashes. However, roadway and roadside infrastructure also contribute to driver distraction. For example, does the placement of changeable message signs at certain locations cause motorists to look away from the road more than they would otherwise? Do certain sign messages cause driver confusion or misunderstanding?
To answer questions like these, the Federal Highway Administration's (FHWA’s) Human Factors Laboratory helps FHWA and its partners examine strategies for enhancing the operation and safety of the Nation's highways. The laboratory conducts research to further the understanding of the needs and limitations of transportation users. Based on the research findings, FHWA has developed guidance, for example, to optimize the design and placement of traffic signs at freeway interchanges and intersections that communicate critical information to drivers more effectively.
Understanding the capabilities and limitations of travelers can help engineers design roadways to minimize human errors and enhance the safety of the traveling public. Research on user characteristics can lead to improvements in roadway design, construction, and maintenance that enable the transportation system to operate more efficiently and safely.
"The Human Factors Laboratory employs multiple research tools to help transportation practitioners evaluate various roadway designs before building them," says FHWA Associate Administrator Michael Trentacoste, Office of Research, Development, and Technology. "For example, State departments of transportation (DOTs) that plan to implement new interchange designs, such as the diverging diamond interchange (also known as double crossover diamond interchange) and the restricted crossover U-turn, can create virtual interchanges using the lab's modeling software to conduct detailed analyses of these designs and others like them. FHWA and its partners will continue to use this state-of-the-art research facility to carry out important human factors and driver behaviors studies."
Recent improvements to the various tools employed by the Human Factors Laboratory, along with a sample of projects that have used those tools, illustrate how the laboratory's research continues to benefit motorists and other users of the transportation network.
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Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center
6300 Georgetown Pike
McLean, VA 22101-2296
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