Task-induced fatigue states and simulated driving performance
States of fatigue are implicated in driver impairment and motor vehicle accidents. This article reports two studies investigating two possible mechanisms for performance impairment: (1) loss of attentional resources; and (2) active regulation of matching effort to task demands. The first hypothesis predicts that fatigue effects will be accentuated by high task demands, but the second hypothesis predicts that fatigue effects will be strongest in "underload" conditions. In two studies, drivers performed a stimulated driving task, in which task demands were manipulated by varying road curvature. In a "fatigue induction" condition, the early part of the drive was occupied by performance of a demanding secondary task concurrently with driving, after which the concurrent task ceased. Post-induction driving performance was compared with a control condition in which drivers were not exposed to the induction. In both studies, the fatigue induction elicited various subjective fatigue and stress symptoms, and also raised reported workload. Fatigue effects on vehicle control and signal detection were assessed during and after the fatigue induction. The fatigue induction increased heading error, reduced steering activity, and, in the second study, reduced perceptual sensitivity on a secondary detection task. These effects were confined to driving on straight rather than on curved road sections, consistent with the effort regulation hypothesis. The second study showed that fatigue effects were moderated by a motivational manipulation. Results are interpreted within a control model, such that task-induced fatigue may reduce awareness of performance impairment, rather than reluctance or inability to mobilize compensatory effort following detection of impairment.
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