Visual Perception of the Roadway and Roadside Elements by the Observer in Motion

This study surveyed the fields of environmental design, highway research, and environmental psychology and found no body of research, much less any measurements, on the relationships between the driver and the landscape (natural and human-made) beyond the paved area of the road. The finding is remarkable, given the fact that landscapes are often in the focal vision and always in peripheral vision of drivers. The complete lack of information is also remarkable because of the growing national public support for scenic by-ways and the increasing community demands for landscape design along roadsides. Importantly, this study finding is disconcerting, given the possibility that the drivers perception of roadside landscapes likely relates to safety.

The study recommends a research strategy: 1) identify landscape variables, 2) determine the correlation between the landscape and safety, and 3) develop a knowledge base. Pilot studies should be conducted in areas (1) and (2), and the resulting knowledge base (3) should be tested in design applications. If the design applications merit continued study, then research should be conducted to produce a full knowledge base so that future landscape design can be better informed and therefore more cost effective.

Publication Date: 
Tuesday, December 1, 1992
Publication Number: 
WA-RD 283.1
Last modified: 
02/14/2018 - 15:45
Judith Heerwagen, Sally Schauman, Anne Vernez Moudon, Boykin Witherspoon, Scott James, Jennifer Mundee.
Washington State Transportation Center (TRAC); University of Washington. Dept. of Landscape Architecture.
Number of Pages: 
Drivers, Environmental design, Highway safety, Landscape design, Perception, Research, Roadside, Scenic highways.