Effect of shoulder width, guardrail and roadway geometry on driver perception and behavior

Tamar Ben-Bassat, David Shinar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

123 Scopus citations


Roadway design is one of the most significant factors that affect driving behavior and perceived safety. The current study tests the combined effects of three roadway design elements - shoulders width, guardrail existence and roadway geometry (curvature) - on objective driving measures (speed and lane position), and subjective measures (perceived safe driving speed and estimated road safety). Twenty two drivers participated in an experiment with a driving simulation. In the first part objective driving data were collected, and in the second part subjective paper-pencil evaluations were requested of the perceived safety of 30 different scenarios that were previously experienced in the simulator. The scenarios consisted of the various combinations of the three roadway design elements. The results showed a significant effect of roadway geometry on both objective and subjective measures. The shoulders width had a significant effect on actual speed, on lane position, and on perceived safe driving speed, but only when a guardrail was present. These findings illustrate the perceptual role of a guardrail in defining the perceived safety margins that various shoulder widths provide. When a guardrail is absent, the width of the shoulder loses much of its benefits and effects on driving behavior. The results also demonstrate that roadway geometry can be used to reduce driving speeds, but at the same time it can have a negative effect on maintaining a stable lane position in sharp curves. Thus, controlling the width of road shoulders and the placement of guardrails seems to be a safer approach to speed and lane position control.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2142-2152
Number of pages11
JournalAccident Analysis and Prevention
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1 Nov 2011


  • Driving behavior
  • Driving simulation
  • Evaluated road safety
  • Guardrail
  • Roadway geometry
  • Shoulders width

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Human Factors and Ergonomics
  • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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