Dynamic traffic management on a familiar road: Failing to detect changes in variable speed limits

Ilse Harms, Karel Brookhuis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

47 Citations (Scopus)
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Variable speed limits (VSL) are used more commonly around the globe lately. Although on a macroscopic level positive effects of VSLs have been reported, the caveat is that the impact of VSLs is very sensitive to the level of driver compliance. Thus far it is unknown whether all individual drivers are actually able to notice when a speed limit changes into another speed limit; a prerequisite for purposeful speed limit compliance in the first place. To simulate regular driving conditions, twenty-four participants were familiarised with a particular route by driving the same route in a driving simulator nineteen times on five separate days. Part of the route consisted of a motorway where VSL signs were regularly displayed above every driving lane. At drive nineteen, speed limits changed from 80 km/h to 100 km/h on four out of eight consecutive signs. After passing all signs, one expects 6.25% of the participants still to be unaware that the speed limit had increased (based on chance), while the results showed most participants had failed to notice the speed limit change (58.3%). Instead, they saw what they expected to see: a speed limit of 80 km/h. If the speed change had been vice versa, in other words from 100 km/h to 80 km/h, this would immediately result in speed offences, though not deliberately at all. (C) 2016 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)37-46
Number of pages10
JournalTransportation Research. Part F: Traffic Psychology and Behaviour
Early online date2-Feb-2016
Publication statusPublished - Apr-2016


  • Change blindness
  • Route-familiarity
  • Situation awareness
  • Variable speed limit
  • Dynamic traffic management
  • Compliance
  • SEE

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