D. Valdés, B. Colucci, D. Fisher, J. Valdés, E. Colón, R. García, J. Rivera
The World Health Organization (WHO), State DOT’s and Ministries of Transport are concerned with the increase in fatal crashes and severe injuries related to the highway system that has been observed in the last decade. Furthermore, road users have changed their driving habits as toll plaza designs have evolved. Driving simulators are now being used to test the effectiveness of Variable Message Signs (VMS), crash cushions, and other emerging traffic control devices. This research study presents the first prototype of a virtual simulation environment for a toll plaza developed at University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez (UPRM), to be used for assessing the effectiveness of different electronic toll collection lane types, and for assessing how signage and queues affect safety and driver behavior and operations in toll plazas. The experiment considered age, sex, driver experience, lane position, traffic mix, day and night time, and destination lane in the toll plaza and their effect on safety and operations. Two signage configurations approaching the toll plaza were evaluated, namely the base configuration that corresponds to the current condition and a proposed overhead signage configuration with the indication of the corresponding speed limits per lane. Acceleration noise was used as surrogate for crash frequency. Overhead signage configuration associated with the corresponding speed limits per lane was found to be significant in reducing the acceleration noise, thus reducing the potential for lane change related crash patterns. Female drivers tend to have a faster deceleration rate than male drivers in the toll booth approach zone. No significant difference between genders on average running speed was found in basic tollway segment at the beginning of the experiment. The results of the driving simulator study are expected to contribute both to the understanding of driving behavior and to the operational safety features of toll managed facilities worldwide.
Keywords: driving simulator; toll plaza; human factors; highway safety; traffic signs; overhead speed signs