The effects of time pressure on driver performance and physiological activity: A driving simulator study

Elizabeth Rendon Velez, Peter van Leeuwen, Riender Happee, I Horvath, Wilfred van der Vegte, Joost de Winter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

68 Citations (Scopus)
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Speeding because of time pressure is a leading contributor to traffic accidents. Previous research indicates that people respond to time pressure through increased physiological activity and by adapting their task strategy in order to mitigate task demands. In the present driving simulator study, we investigated effects of time pressure on measures of eye movement, pupil diameter, cardiovascular and respiratory activity, driving performance, vehicle control, limb movement, head position, and self-reported state. Based on existing theories of human behavior under time pressure, we distinguished three categories of results: (1) driving speed, (2) physiological measures, and (3) driving strategies. Fifty-four participants drove a 6.9-km urban track with overtaking, car following, and intersection scenarios, first with no time pressure (NTP) and subsequently with time pressure (TP) induced by a time constraint and a virtual passenger urging to hurry up. The results showed that under TP in comparison to NTP, participants (1) drove significantly faster, an effect that was also reflected in auxiliary measures such as maximum brake position, throttle activity, and lane keeping precision, (2) exhibited increased physiological activity, such as increased heart rate, increased respiration rate, increased pupil diameter, and reduced blink rate, and (3) adopted scenario-specific strategies for effective task completion, such as driving to the left of the lane during car following, and early visual lookout when approaching intersections. The effects of TP relative to NTP were generally large and statistically significant. However, individual differences in absolute values were large. Hence, we recommend that real-time driver feedback technologies use relative instead of absolute criteria for assessing the driver’s state.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)150-169
JournalTransportation Research. Part F: Traffic Psychology and Behaviour
Issue numberPart A
Publication statusPublished - 2016

Bibliographical note

Green Open Access added to TU Delft Institutional Repository ‘You share, we take care!’ – Taverne project

Otherwise as indicated in the copyright section: the publisher is the copyright holder of this work and the author uses the Dutch legislation to make this work public.


  • Simulation
  • Virtual reality
  • Workload
  • Psychophysiology


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