Decisions and actions of distracted drivers at the onset of yellow lights

Md Mazharul Haque, Amanda D. Ohlhauser, Simon Washington, Linda Ng Boyle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Driving on an approach to a signalized intersection while distracted is relatively risky, as potential vehicular conflicts and resulting angle collisions tend to be relatively more severe compared to other locations. Given the prevalence and importance of this particular scenario, the objective of this study was to examine the decisions and actions of distracted drivers during the onset of yellow lights. Driving simulator data were obtained from a sample of 69 drivers under baseline and handheld cell phone conditions at the University of Iowa – National Advanced Driving Simulator. Explanatory variables included age, gender, cell phone use, distance to stop-line, and speed. Although there is extensive research on drivers’ responses to yellow traffic signals, the examinations have been conducted from a traditional regression-based approach, which do not necessary provide the underlying relations and patterns among the sampled data. In this paper, we exploit the benefits of both classical statistical inference and data mining techniques to identify the a priori relationships among main effects, non-linearities, and interaction effects. Results suggest that the probability of yellow light running increases with the increase in driving speed at the onset of yellow. Both young (18–25 years) and middle-aged (30–45 years) drivers reveal reduced propensity for yellow light running whilst distracted across the entire speed range, exhibiting possible risk compensation during this critical driving situation. The propensity for yellow light running for both distracted male and female older (50–60 years) drivers is significantly higher. Driver experience captured by age interacts with distraction, resulting in their combined effect having slower physiological response and being distracted particularly risky.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)290-299
Number of pages10
JournalAccident Analysis and Prevention
StatePublished - Nov 1 2016


  • Distracted driving
  • Driver behavior
  • Mobile phone
  • Motion-based driving simulator
  • Risk compensation
  • Yellow light

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Human Factors and Ergonomics
  • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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