Field Study 2: Covert Observation

Objective: Quantify the distribution of egress behaviors in drivers who are not aware that they are being observed.

Method: Trained investigators observed egress events at truck stops on highways near Ann Arbor and coded the behaviors.

Results: The table summarizes the findings from covert observations of 250 egress events. Drivers usually placed their left foot on the top step and right foot on the bottom step. Drivers faced inward 47% of the time and outward 46% of the time, with a switch from outward to inward 7% of the time. Drivers were holding an object in one hand 19% of the time, and in two observations the driver was holding an object in both hands. The driver skipped the bottom step in 9 of 250 observations. The driver placed both feet on the same step (double step) 69 times (25% of the time) nearly always on the top step.

Key Findings:

  • Outward facing tactics occur in about half of driver egresses.
  • A small but potentially important number of drivers skip the bottom step, effectively jumping to the ground.
  • Drivers are often holding objects in their hands when they exit (20% of egresses in this sample).


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