Objective: The aim of this study was to better understand the role played by perceptual load, at both central and peripheral regions of the visual scene, in driving safety. Background: Attention is a crucial factor in driving safety, and previous laboratory studies suggest that perceptual load is an important factor determining the efficiency of attentional selectivity. Yet, the effects of perceptual load on driving were never studied systematically. Method: Using a driving simulator, we orthogonally manipulated the load levels at the road (central load) and its sides (peripheral load), while occasionally introducing critical events at one of these regions. Results: Perceptual load affected driving performance at both regions of the visual scene. Critically, the effect was different for central versus peripheral load: Whereas load levels on the road mainly affected driving speed, load levels on its sides mainly affected the ability to detect critical events initiating from the roadsides. Moreover, higher levels of peripheral load impaired performance but mainly with low levels of central load, replicating findings with simple letter stimuli. Conclusion: Perceptual load has a considerable effect on driving, but the nature of this effect depends on the region of the visual scene at which the load is introduced. Application: Given the observed importance of perceptual load, authors of future studies of driving safety should take it into account. Specifically, these findings suggest that our understanding of factors that may be relevant for driving safety would benefit from studying these factors under different levels of load at different regions of the visual scene.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This study was supported by the Israel National Road Safety Authority and by the Research Fund on Insurance Matters. Parts of this paper were written while Y. Yeshurun was a fellow at the ZiF–Center for Interdisciplinary Research, Bielefeld University, Germany.
© 2014, Human Factors and Ergonomics Society.
- driving distraction
- driving simulator
- perceptual load
- selective attention
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Human Factors and Ergonomics
- Applied Psychology
- Behavioral Neuroscience