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What is naturalistic driving?
Naturalistic driving, also known as naturalistic observations, is a new approach among already applied traffic research methods.
Under this naturalistic observation approach, the behaviour of road users is observed unobtrusively in a natural setting for a long period of time. In the United States, the approach has proven its potential to contribute substantially to the understanding of the processes resulting in crashes and near misses.
More information and several references to relevant publications can be found in the SWOV fact sheet Naturalistic Driving: observing everyday driving behaviour.
How does it work?
Typically, in a naturalistic observation study passenger cars, generally the subjects' own cars, are equipped with devices that continuously monitor various aspects of driving behaviour, including information about vehicle movements - e.g. acceleration, deceleration, position on the road, driving speed -, about the driver - e.g. eye, head and hand movements -, and about the direct environment - e.g. traffic densities, time headway, road and weather conditions. This technique makes it possible to observe and analyse the interrelationship between driver, vehicle, road and other traffic in normal situations, in conflict situations and in actual collisions.
Since it is more difficult to equip cyclists and pedestrians, naturalistic site-based observations units are a useful addition for increasing our knowledge about the specific problems of these vulnerable road user groups.