MIE Distinguished Seminar Series: Court Cases – A Catalyst for Human Factors Research

Friday, November 24, 2017






Speaker: Alison Smiley
Affiliation: President of Human Factors North Inc.; Adjunct Professor in MIE, University of Toronto
Location: MC 102
Date and time: November 24, 2017, 2-3 PM


The job of the human factors expert who analyzes a motor vehicle crash is to understand why road users made the errors they did. In particular, the court wishes to know from the expert whether those errors might be expected even for a reasonably attentive and cautious road user, or are indicative of carelessness or unusual behaviour. The search for answers gives rise to applied research opportunities. For example, many crashes come about through violations of driver expectations.  Our understanding of the impact of expectancy on hazard detection and on perception-reaction time is limited. This is especially true in the case of low contrast or misunderstood targets at night, e.g., dark-clothed pedestrian in the roadway or unusually placed taillights. These and other fruitful areas for research, illustrated by actual court cases, will be discussed.

Speaker biosketch

Dr. Alison Smiley is President of Human Factors North Inc., a Toronto-based human factors engineering consulting company. She holds an MASc. (1972) and PhD (1978) in Systems Design Engineering, specializing in Human Factors. She is an adjunct professor in the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering at the University of Toronto. She is an emeritus member and past chair (1989 – 1996) of the U.S. Transportation Research Board (TRB) Committee AND10 on Vehicle User Characteristics, past Chair (1999 – 2001) of the TRB Group 3 Council on Operations, Safety and Maintenance of Transportation. Dr. Smiley has over 40 years’ experience in the measurement of human performance, specializing in traffic safety. She has taught courses on human factors and traffic safety to graduate and undergraduate students, traffic engineers, highway designers and police accident reconstructionists across Canada and the U.S. and has acted as an expert witness in over 500 legal cases involving car, truck, motorcycle, boat and train accidents

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