Revamping lorry designs to overhaul blind spots in current models could save the lives of hundreds of cyclists and pedestrians every year, according to a new report by Loughborough University. “Blind spots can be a significant factor in fatal accidents with lorries,” said Dr Steve Summerskill, one of the report’s co-authors. “The study shows that the size of these blind spots can be minimised through improved cab design, the reduction of cab height and the addition of extra windows.”
If you are planning to take up cycling for the first time or have just discovered the appeal of bicycles, we have an Ergonomics Guide to Cycling available as a download that could get you thinking.
It summarises some of the issues you need to take into account so that the bike is right for you and some of the safety considerations to take into account. The chances are you will have thought of these points but the guide provides a bit of a checklist and raises a couple of areas that you might not consciously think about. Do you demonstrate situational awareness? Probably, but it will help to know how useful this is and to make sure that you apply this when out on the road.
There is also much more detailed advice for cyclists available on numerous websites and we have highlighted some of these sites in a resources list at the end of an article about cyclists and blind spots.
A light-hearted article addresses some real world human factors issues concerning the hypothesis that distracted driving from performing other tasks in the car is a major cause of motor vehicle accidents. Does distracted driving from texting similarly affect Mario Kart performance? Perhaps unsurprisingly, the study concluded that the risk of a crash, driving off the track, and driving backwards among Mario Kart drivers significantly increased with texting, resulting in significantly slower times. All participants were surprised at the effect of texting on their Mario Kart driving performance. See more on this story.
How technology can help our cities to have cleaner, safer, more efficient transport systems. See an article from BBC’s Future: Why city transport is set to become ‘smarter’.
Recently there have been a number of news stories relating to the deaths of cyclists in London. This is tragic but the news stories seem to be determined to blame either cyclist, drivers or both. However, no one has thought to consider the problem from a human factors perspective.
As human factors is a systems discipline we might like to think about how to solve the problem at an incremental level. One way to do so would be to apply a systems model, say Vicente’s Human-tech ladder, to guide the analysis and development of the situation as this promotes consideration at physical, psychological, team, organisational, and political levels. Naturally not all these are necessary, we might exclude team and organisational level, yet the remaining categories raise some interesting thoughts.
What physical aspects can be considered to improve the current situation? The physical infrastructure of cycle lanes, the physical safety of cyclists (development of helmet, reflective clothing), vehicles safety features?
Above this there are psychological factors. How can we make wearing a helmet for cyclist a habitual process? How can we educate and alter driver behaviour to be more vigilant towards cyclists? How can we create attitudes of sharing towards road space and modes of transport?
In order to achieve this there needs to be a catalyst, arguably from the political environmental. For example, can funding be given to encourage R&D in physical aspects of road safety? Can there be government campaigns to increase the awareness to address psychological aspects?
This is a very simplified view point of how human factors could be used to consider the problem and at a systems level. This perhaps might make the problem more manageable as organisations can work on specific aspects (physical and psychological), with the help from the political landscape.
I have not provided any solutions, merely ways of thinking about the problem. Let’s hope the benefit of human factors can be seen by the broader community to help tackle what is likely to be a topic of debate over the next few years, particularly as cycling has benefits for both the environment and health.
Dr Jamie Mackrill, Research Fellow, WMG, University of Warwick, UK
Police vehicles on motorways need to be distinctive for safety and security reasons and the blue and yellow ‘Battenburg’ livery now being used by police forces across the country is underpinned by high quality ergonomics research.
This is the first nationwide livery to be adopted for police vehicles and motorcycles and was developed according to strict criteria set by the Home Office. Driving is a complex and dynamic task, so it is critical that motorists see police vehicles as soon as possible, particularly as they could be engaged in an emergency operation. Therefore, the livery had to be conspicuous both day and night and in all weather conditions because high visibility not only reassures the public and deters criminals but it also enhances officer and public safety.