The objective of this study is to analyze the driving behavior at toll plazas by examining multiple scenarios using a driving simulator to study the effect of different options including different path decisions, various signs, arrow markings, traffic conditions, and extending auxiliary lanes before and after the toll plaza on the driving behavior. Also, this study focuses on investigating the effect of drivers' characteristics on the dangerous driving behavior (e.g. speed variation, sudden lane change, drivers' confusion). Safety and efficiency are the fundamental goals that transportation engineering is always seeking for the design of highways. Transportation agencies have a crucial challenging task to accomplish traffic safety, particularly at the locations that have been identified as crash hotspots. In fact, toll plaza locations are one of the most critical and challenging areas that expressway agencies have to pay attention to because of the increasing traffic crashes over the past years near toll plazas. Drivers are required to make many decisions at expressway toll plazas which result in drivers' confusion, speed variation, and abrupt lane change maneuvers. These crucial decisions are mainly influenced by three reasons. First, the limited distance between toll plazas and the merging areas at the on-ramps before the toll plazas. In additional to the limited distance between toll plazas and the diverging areas after the toll plazas at the off-ramps. Second, it is also affected by the location and the configuration of signage and pavement markings. Third, drivers' decisions are affected by the different lane configurations and tolling systems that can cause drivers' confusion and stress. Nevertheless, limited studies have explored the factors that influence driving behavior and safety at toll plazas. There are three main systems of the toll plaza, the traditional mainline toll plaza (TMTP), the hybrid mainline toll plaza (HMTP), and the all-electronic toll collection (AETC). Recently, in order to improve the safety and the efficiency of the toll plazas, most of the traditional mainline toll plazas have been converted to the hybrid toll plazas or the all-electronic toll collection plazas. This study assessed driving behavior at a section, including a toll plaza on one of the main expressways in Central Florida. The toll plaza is located between a close on-ramp and a nearby off-ramp. Thus, these close distances have a significant effect on increasing driver's confusion and unexpected lane change before and after the toll plaza. Driving simulator experiments were used to study the driving behavior at, before and after the toll plaza. The details of the section and the plaza were accurately replicated in the simulator. In the driving simulator experiment, Seventy-two drivers with different age groups were participated. Subsequently, each driver performed three separate scenarios out of a total of twenty-four scenarios. Seven risk indicators were extracted from the driving simulator experiment data by using MATLAB software. These variables are average speed, standard deviation of speed, standard deviation of lane deviation, acceleration rate, standard deviation of acceleration (acceleration noise), deceleration rate, and standard deviation of deceleration (braking action variation). Moreover, various scenario variables were tested in the driving simulator including different paths, signage, pavement markings, traffic condition, and extending auxiliary lanes before and after the toll plaza. Divers' individual characteristics were collected from a questionnaire before the experiment. Also, drivers were filling a questionnaire after each scenario to check for simulator sickness or discomfort. Nine variables were extracted from the simulation questionnaire for representing individual characteristics including, age, gender, education level, annual income, crash experience, professional drivers, ETC-tag use, driving frequency, and novice international drivers. A series of mixed linear models with random effects to account for multiple observations from the same participant were developed to reveal the contributing factors that affect driving behavior at toll plazas. The results uncovered that all drivers who drove through the open road tolling (ORT) showed higher speed and lower speed variation, lane deviation, and acceleration noise than other drivers who navigate through the tollbooth. Also, the results revealed that providing adequate signage, and pavement markings are effective in reducing risky driving behavior at toll plazas. Drivers tend to drive with less lane deviation and acceleration noise before the toll plaza when installing arrow pavement markings. Adding dynamic message sign (DMS) at the on-ramp has a significant effect on reducing speed variation before the toll plaza. Likewise, removing the third overhead sign before the toll plaza has a considerable influence on reducing aggressive driving behavior before and after the toll plaza. This result may reflect drivers' desire to feel less confusion by excessive signs and markings. Third, extending auxiliary lanes with 660 feet (0.125 miles) before or after the toll plaza have an effect on increasing the average speed and reducing the lane deviation and the speed variation at and before the toll plaza. It also has an impact on increasing the acceleration noise and the braking action variation after the toll plaza. Finally, it was found that in congested conditions, participants drive with a lower speed variation and lane deviation before the toll plaza but with a higher acceleration noise after the toll plaza. On the other hand, understanding drivers' characteristics is particularly important for exploring their effect on risky driving behavior. Young drivers (18-25) and old drivers (older than 50 years) consistently showed a higher risk behavior than middle age drivers (35 to 50). Also, it was found that male drivers are riskier than female drivers at toll plazas. Drivers with high education level, drivers with high income, ETC-tag users, and drivers whose driving frequency is less than three trips per day are more cautious and tend to drive at a lower speed.


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Graduation Date





Abdel-Aty, Mohamed


Master of Science (M.S.)


College of Engineering and Computer Science


Civil, Environmental, and Construction Engineering

Degree Program

Civil Engineering; Transportation System Engineering









Release Date

December 2016

Length of Campus-only Access


Access Status

Masters Thesis (Open Access)