Researchers working in Malaysia and the UK are finding that drivers’ perceptions of hazards, and thus their reaction times to them, vary from one country to another.

Image: University of Nottingham Malaysia

According to the International Transport Forum, Malaysia has one of the highest death rates from road traffic accidents in the world. In 2011, there were 6,877 fatalities – a rise of 70% since 1990. By contrast there were only 1,960 fatalities on British roads in 2011 – a fall of nearly 64% since 1990.

To help improve road safety, teams in the UK and Malaysia have examined drivers’ hazard perception from a cross-cultural perspective. Research by the University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus (UNMC) and the University of Nottingham in the UK shows that Malaysian drivers have significantly slower reaction times to hazards than British drivers and require a higher threshold of danger before taking action.

In the study, volunteers from the UK and Malaysia were shown videos of driving scenarios in both countries and asked to respond to hazards by pressing a button. British drivers took an average of 1.68 seconds to register an emerging threat while Malaysian drivers took 2.25 seconds to respond. Eye tracking data showed the Malaysians were seeing the hazards at the same time as the British drivers but taking longer to respond, suggesting they considered the hazards to be less dangerous.

“The fact that Malaysian drivers are slower to respond to danger possibly reflects the more hazardous road environment they are used to,” says Phui Cheng Lim, a postgraduate student who led the research. “Our results suggest that hazard perception testing, particularly in developing countries, would benefit from a paradigm where performance cannot be confused with differing thresholds of what is regarded as a potential hazard.”

“The kind of test we used works very well in the UK, but for countries where people seem more desensitised to hazards, it may not be as appropriate,” says Dr Elizabeth Sheppard, head of the Driving Research Group at UNMC. Her team is currently investigating alternative ways to examine hazard perception in both the UK and Malaysia.











For further information contact:

Phui Cheng Lim
School of Psychology, Faculty of Science
The University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus
Selangor, Malaysia