Evaluation of Driver Stress while Transiting Road Tunnels
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According to the reported numbers of fatal crashes, road tunnels on highways pose a severe safety risk. Based on our own experience and observations, it is supposed that one substantial reason is an increased level of anger or stress, observable through elevated levels of cognitive demand. To confirm these assumptions, we conducted an on-road experiment aimed at revealing how the human mind is affected (in terms of stress levels) when traveling through tunnels compared to driving on the open road. Test subjects were continuously monitored with an ECG device and had to steer the vehicle on a 100km long highway segment with 24 tunnel passages. Qualitative and quantitative evaluation reveals that individuals in fact experience an elevated stress level, while feeling uncomfortable with the situation. A combination of these two circumstances suggests that, in critical situations, the body might react with tonical immobility as part of its acute stress response, having devastating consequences on the road. Future work is therefore strongly encouraged to identify major stressors, so to alleviate increased stress and, thus, to increase traffic safety.