Effects of roadside memorials on drivers' risk perception and eye movements

Vanessa Beanland, Rachael A. Wynne
2019 Cognitive Research  
Road crashes are a leading cause of death worldwide. In many countries, it is common to see spontaneous roadside memorials constructed in response to road fatalities. These memorials are controversial and are explicitly banned in many jurisdictions. Advocates argue that the presence of memorials improves safety by making other drivers aware of an especially dangerous road where others have died, whereas opponents argue that they are distracting and decrease safety by diverting drivers'
more » ... away from the road. However, there has been almost no research examining the effects of roadside memorials on road user behavior and safety. In this study, 40 drivers viewed videos of road scenes with and without memorials, to examine how the presence of roadside memorials influences drivers' attentional allocation (indicated by eye movements to the roadside area) and safety-related behaviors (indicated by perceived risk ratings and preferred travel speeds for the road). The findings indicate memorials do capture visual attention, as participants were more likely to fixate on memorials compared with a comparison object placed on the roadside. However, fixations on the memorials, and to the roadside area in general, were relatively brief. The presence of memorials did not affect perceived risk and did not produce a clear systematic effect on preferred travel speed. Nearly all drivers in our study supported permitting roadside memorials, but a small number strongly opposed memorials on the belief they are distracting and/or distressing.
doi:10.1186/s41235-019-0184-1 fatcat:5a626p2ccbhkzoqgpp7up6g3h4