Master of Science in Civil Engineering (MSCE)


Civil and Environmental Engineering

Document Type



The long and tragic history of vehicle-bicycle crashes in the United States has increasingly led to calls for legislative action to provide greater protections for bicyclists on the nation’s roadways. Among the most common of these actions are the three-foot passing laws. Recent history suggests that these laws may contribute to reducing the number of vehicular/bicycle-related collisions as well as their accompanying deaths and injuries, but few, if any, studies have shown how they substantively affect driver behavior. This thesis builds upon the results of recent research quantifying the effects of the three-foot passing laws by comparing key behavioral aspects of drivers aware and unaware of these requirements. The research, conducted in a full-scale driving simulator, also examined the response of participants under different scenarios of opposing traffic volume and their personal characteristics which could have influenced their behavior. Driver actions and vehicle movements relative to a bicyclist were measured in terms of lateral distance and speed at the time of overtaking. Driving simulators have not been previously used in the study overtaking behavior. Therefore, this represents a unique opportunity to assess the use of a driving simulator as a tool to study this behavior. Based on the research findings, awareness of the law did not significantly affect driver behavior. This was evidenced from a comparison made between the mean overtaking distances provided by participants unaware and ware of the law. Moreover, the overtaking distances were not found to be significantly different. The presence of various opposing traffic volume scenarios was not found to affect driver behavior significantly. When investigating the ability of drivers to estimate the average lateral overtaking distance provided, it was noted that participants made close estimates of the mean lateral distances provided in the simulation. This suggests that the ability to measure lateral distances was not an issue for them. Finally, the findings of this research show the valuable use of a driving simulator to model the behavior of drivers overtaking bicyclists. The approach used in this research can be used as a basis for conducting future studies by expanding the factors explored in this study.



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Committee Chair

Wolshon, Brian