The effects of road commentary training on novice drivers' visual search behaviour: A preliminary investigation
One of the major challenges facing novice drivers seems to be adequately scanning, detecting, and responding to hazards which present during the course of everyday driving; a process that involves ‘reading the road’ and modifying driver behaviour accordingly. Previous studies have indicated that inexperienced drivers tend to utilise only a small proportion of the visual field when driving, and this limited visual search behaviour may play a significant role in the over-representation of young novice drivers’ involvement in crashes. This deficiency in visual search is especially evidenced through crashes occurring at intersections, or other densely populated road environments. More recently, road commentary has become of interest within a number of driver education initiatives, and several current studies have indicated that road commentary indeed improves drivers’ performance in hazard perception tasks. However, relatively little is known about commentaries influence on the underlying cognitive mechanisms responsible for enhanced situation awareness or hazard awareness, and whether such improvements generalize to a broader range of road scenarios. Using hazard perception and eye-tracking measures, we started to examine how road commentary could influence the way drivers visually accrue and process essential road information. First, our data confirmed that commentary training significantly increased the percentage of hazards identified. But additionally, preliminary eye movement data indicated that road commentary may have influenced visual search behaviour of the participants by ‘prompting’ them to allocate extra visual attention capacity to hazard rich areas, as evidenced by an increase of their fixation clusters across the visual field. This could help increase situation awareness, and convert to safer driving behaviour and reduced risk-taking.