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The effects of lane width, shoulder width, and road cross-sectional reallocation on drivers' behavioral adaptations.

ABSTRACT

Previous research has shown that lane-width reduction makes drivers operate vehicles closer to the center of the road whereas hard-shoulder widening induces a position farther away from the road's center. The goal of the present driving-simulator study was twofold. First, it was aimed at further investigating the respective effects of lane and shoulder width on in-lane positioning strategies, by examining vehicle distance from the center of the lane. The second aim was to assess the impact on safety of three possible cross-sectional reallocations of the width of the road (i.e., three lane-width reductions with concomitant shoulder widening at a fixed cross-sectional width) as compared to a control road. The results confirmed that lane-width reduction made participants drive closer to the road's center. However, in-lane position was affected differently by lane narrowing, depending on the traffic situation. In the absence of oncoming traffic, lane narrowing gave rise to significant shifts in the car's distance from the lane's center toward the edge line, whereas this distance remained similar across lane widths during traffic periods. When the shoulders were at least 0.50m wide, participants drove farther away from both the road center and the lane center. Road reallocation operations resulted in vehicles positioned farther away from the edge of the road and less swerving behavior, without generating higher driving speeds. Finally, it is argued that road-space reallocation may serve as a good low-cost tool for providing a recovery area for steering errors, without impairing drivers' behavior.