Roadside aesthetic appeal, driver behaviour and safety

  • Gerald J.S. Wilde Queen's Univerisity
Keywords: road, aesthetics, safety


Earlier publications report that on average the accident rate per hour of driver exposure is virtually the same across samples of different road sections. Both physiological and cognitive measures of the level of risk perceived, taken from drivers while passing different road sections, have shown substantial positive correlations with the police-recorded accident rate per km of the road sections in which the driving was done. Taken together, these studies indicate that where the historical accident rate is high, drivers on average maintain lower speeds, and vice versa. Apparently then, drivers are sensitive to environmental features that are associated with the accident rate per km driven, and they adjust their behaviour accordingly. This paper presents an analytical discussion of pertinent literature. Attention is drawn to the psychological effects of roadside scenery as documented in the literature. In contrast with the assumption that roadside trees distract travellers from the driving task and thus add to collision risk, several studies actually support the notion that the presence of trees along the roadside has a calming and restorative effect on the state of mind of passing drivers and leads them to lower moving speeds. Moreover, there is evidence that both driver (semi-permanent) traits and (temporary) states have an effect on their choice between more or less scenic roads. In order to overcome some of the limitations of the evidence gathered so far (simulation, quasi-experimentation in the field, and small sample sizes), this paper proposes that a time-based accident rate for different road sections be determined, and this with the ultimate aim to identify the distinctive geometric and scenic road features that make drivers run more risk per hour in certain road sections, and less in others than they do on average.

Author Biography

Gerald J.S. Wilde, Queen's Univerisity
Professor Emeritus of Psychology