Differential effects of monotony versus fatigue on driving performance and the effectiveness of various detection methods : implications for road safety in the ACT

Michael, Rebecca L. (2009) Differential effects of monotony versus fatigue on driving performance and the effectiveness of various detection methods : implications for road safety in the ACT. NRMA-ACT Road Safety Trust.

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Situational driving factors, including fatigue, distraction, inattention and monotony, are recognised killers in Australia, contributing to an estimated 40% of fatal crashes and 34% of all crashes . More often than not the main contributing factor is identified as fatigue, yet poor driving performance has been found to emerge early in monotonous conditions, independent of fatigue symptoms and time on task. This early emergence suggests an important role for monotony. However, much road safety research suggests that monotony is solely a task characteristic that directly causes fatigue and associated symptoms and there remains an absence of consistent evidence explaining the relationship.


We report an experimental study designed to disentangle the characteristics and effects of monotony from those associated with fatigue. Specifically, we examined whether poor driving performance associated with hypovigilance emerges as a consequence of monotony, independent of fatigue. We also examined whether monotony is a multidimensional construct, determined by environmental characteristics and/or task demands that independently moderate sustained attention and associated driving performance.


Using a driving simulator, participants completed four, 40 minute driving scenarios. The scenarios varied in the degree of monotony as determined by the degree of variation in road design (e.g., straight roads vs. curves) and/or road side scenery. Fatigue, as well as a number of other factors known to moderate vigilance and driving performance, was controlled for. To track changes across time, driving performance was assessed in five minute time periods using a range of behavioural, subjective and physiological measures, including steering wheel movements, lane positioning, electroencephalograms, skin conductance, and oculomotor activity.


Results indicate that driving performance is worse in monotonous driving conditions characterised by low variability in road design. Critically, performance decrements associated with monotony emerge very early, suggesting monotony effects operate independent of fatigue.


Monotony is a multi-dimensional construct where, in a driving context, roads containing low variability in design are monotonous and those high in variability are non-monotonous. Importantly, low variability in road side scenery does not appear to exacerbate monotony or associated poor performance. However, high variability in road side scenery can act as a distraction and impair sustained attention and poor performance when driving on monotonous roads. Furthermore, high sensation seekers seem to be more susceptible to distraction when driving on monotonous roads. Implications of our results for the relationship between monotony and fatigue, and the possible construct-specific detection methods in a road safety context, will be discussed.

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ID Code: 77662
Item Type: Report
Refereed: No
Keywords: driving performance, fatigue, monotony, road safety
Divisions: Current > Research Centres > Centre for Accident Research & Road Safety - Qld (CARRS-Q)
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Health
Current > Institutes > Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation
Current > Schools > School of Psychology & Counselling
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2009 [please consult the author]
Deposited On: 21 Oct 2014 01:30
Last Modified: 22 Oct 2014 04:35

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