Experienced drivers perceive the road differently

Experienced drivers are not only better skilled at the actions of driving, but learn to perceive and attend to the road in a different way

We found that novices eye-movements were different from those of the more experienced drivers in several ways, though the extent of scanning on a particular section of dual carriageway was particularly limited. We have since examined this effect in the laboratory using video-based stimuli replicating the same impoverished scanning in novice drivers (e.g. Underwood, Chapman, Bowden, & Crundall, 2002).

We have also further explored why this might be the case, examining the possibility of whether this was due to the novice drivers having a deficient mental model or whether they were simply overloaded by the requirement to control the car (a process which requires less attention with increased experience), and found that even when car-control demands were eliminated, the effect persisted (Underwood et al., 2002).

Another aspect that appears to be important in understanding this effect is the extent of the inexperienced drivers’ peripheral attention (Crundall, Underwood, & Chapman, 1999, 2002). We found that the less experienced drivers have a smaller field of peripheral vision, and are more likely to miss even abrupt onsets. This is especially the case when they are focusing on something that is potentially dangerous.

For example if the car ahead brakes suddenly, a novice driver will focus so much attention on that car that they may miss the errant cyclist emerging from the side road. More experienced drivers have a wider spread of peripheral attention however, and this appears to be linked to their spread of search.

The paragraph is an excerpt from a commentary on an interesting article on the relevance of lab studies to the real world from the latest edition of the British Journal of Psychology. I’ll post more about the main article shortly, but this snippet just caught my attention, if you’ll excuse the pun.

Link to PubMed entry for commentary paper.

2 thoughts on “Experienced drivers perceive the road differently”

  1. Driving has never been sufficiently verbalized. I noticed this 54 years ago , when I was 16 in high school and had to take driver education. By this time I’d had many years of drivin on farms,and between farms with tractors,cars ,pickups and trucks , and the guy that was teaching this course was a very verbal guy and could handle talking on any subject in front of a room full of oppressively control teenagers , but he knew little about the actual driving of a car. After looking back from the vantage point of five million plus miles I can see that the classroom and schools in general are antsy driver establishments .it is from these rooms or rooms like these and people who are at home and comfortable with these environments ,where all the drivers are legislated ,and inforcement policies are made from.

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