School of Psychology

Accident Research Unit


Safer roads for all

The Accident Research Unit uses research in cognitive psychology to understand driving behaviour and the causes of accidents.

This group investigates the study of attention, skill learning, multitasking and influences of emotion on performance, as well as the recording of eye gaze, physiological variables and brain activity using fNIRS. The Accident Research Unit makes use of three state-of-the-art driving research facilities via the new Nottingham Integrated Transport and Environmental Simulation facility (NITES).

Recent projects and publications 

Recently funded projects include assessing an animated hazard perception test (Driving Standards Agency), examining the reasons behind motorcycle collisions (Department for Transport), designing a risk profiler for fleet motorcyclists (Honda), assessing truck driver risk (VOSA), and training learner drivers through the use of simulation (BSM and EPSRC).



David Clarke
Emertitus Professor of Psychology

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Peter Chapman
Associate Professor

I do research in applied cognitive psychology. My main area of application is the psychology of driving, while my more theoretical interests are in vision and memory. Some of my research actually fuses all three of these areas i.e. where do drivers look, and what do they remember after they have looked there? Some examples of the kind of research that I am involved in are provided below.

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Visual Search in Novice and Experienced Drivers

We have recorded the eye movements of large numbers of newly qualified drivers both while they are driving an instrumented vehicle and while they are watching videos of driving situations in the laboratory. These drivers seem to have very different search strategies to those used by drivers with five to ten years of traffic experience. We are investigating ways of training newly qualified drivers to use more effective visual search strategies.

Eye Movements in Dangerous Driving Situations

We have found that eye movements in dangerous situations are characterised by an increase in average fixation durations and a reduction in mean saccade length, and in spread of both horizontal and vertical search. These situations also produced particularly dramatic differences between novice and experienced drivers in their visual search strategies.

Memory for Accidents and Near Accidents

Our work on eye movements predicts that memory in dangerous situations should be best for central information and worst for peripheral details. Various memory studies have supported this conclusion. One of our more surprising findings is how often drivers completely forget their accidents and near accidents. Drivers seem to be particularly likely to forget about minor incidents when they did not feel personally responsible for the accident.

Attention and Memory Failures in Routine Tasks

One other surprising example of a memory failure in drivers is the "time gap experience". This is the common feeling of 'waking up' while driving to the realisation that you can't remember anything about the previous section of road. We have found that this type of experience is reported frequently both in driving and other everyday tasks. We also have some tentative evidence linking such experiences to involvement in road traffic accidents.

Traffic Accident Liability

The key practical question in the psychology of driving is to understand individual and situational factors which predict the occurrence of accidents. Some of the factors we have been particularly interested in are hazard perception ability, occurrence of anger while driving, tradeoffs between speed and accuracy, and general driving style as measured in an instrumented vehicle. One new area of interest is company car drivers and the types of accidents that they are involved in.

Danielle Ropar
Associate Professor

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Geoff Underwood
Emeritus Professor

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School of Psychology

University Park
The University of Nottingham
Nottingham, NG7 2RD

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