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Human factors research, also referred to as ergonomics, examines the way people interact with various aspects of the world and aims to make these interactions safer, healthier, and more efficient. This interdisciplinary field of research has a wide scope of application, spanning road safety, healthcare delivery, physical, cognitive, and technological systems.
In the context of safety features and road safety, human factors research aims to understand the driver’s role in the safe operation of his or her vehicle. Various factors contribute to how a person behaves in the driver’s seat, including environmental, psychological, and vehicle design factors. The goal of human factors research is to expose these factors, determine the extent of their influence on driver performance, and modify road or vehicle design to reduce unsafe behaviours and improve driver performance. Vehicle safety features are part of a safe-driving system that includes human factor: the various ways that drivers interact with these features will help determine both how safe the driver is and how effective those safety features are.
The Traffic Injury Research Foundation’s (TIRF) nation-wide 2012 survey revealed that some drivers admit that they would engage in unsafe driving practices like distracted driving and speeding if they knew that their vehicle was fully equipped with modern safety features. This is a clear example of human factors affecting the overall amount of safety benefit that these drivers can expect to see as a result of driving a vehicle with safety features. However, not all human factors are this obvious. A general lack of familiarity with how safety features work may have a subtle yet negative influence on a driver’s ability to benefit from safety features. At the most fundamental level, if a driver is unfamiliar with how the safety features on his or her vehicle work – or even what certain dashboard symbols mean –there may be more safety benefits that could be realized.
Human factors are not necessarily limited to unsafe driving behaviours like excessive speeding and tailgating. Age, driving experience, attention level, and vehicle maintenance can all have an effect downstream on the performance of safety features. Drivers are an indispensable part of the road safety system, so factors that affect drivers accordingly affect road safety in general.
Click on any of the links to the left to see how these common driver behaviours can have an influence on the performance of your safety features.