Enhancing Road Safety by Addressing Hazards from Rental Vehicles

Traffic accidents associated with rental cars cannot be overlooked. The variability in car users’ driving experience and their familiarity with rented vehicles contribute to unpredictable driving behavior on the roads, complicating the establishment of a consistent road environment, and leading to an increased frequency of traffic accidents. What is more, the growing prevalence of automatic cars may further amplify these concerns in the future. Therefore, it is crucial to establish a more predictable road environment by addressing users' unfamiliarity with rental vehicles. With that, the objectives of this study include: (1) exploring the behavioral differences when driving familiar versus unfamiliar vehicles, and (2) investigating how these differences influence the reactions of car users to unexpected accidents or incidents. USDOT Priorities: This study aligns with the strategic goals of USDOT by focusing on safety and equity for the transportation system. A more consistent and predictable road environment can be created by addressing safety hazards caused by rental cars. Transportation-related serious injuries and fatalities due to rental car-engaged collisions can be mitigated by studying car users’ driving behavior and associated reactions to unexpected incidents or accidents. The study also has positive potential to impact a diverse population across various socioeconomic levels. The vehicle rental systems can afford individuals the freedom for their immediate vehicle needs. Especially in areas with limited public transit options or extensive geographical expanses, vehicle rental services can effectively cater to the diverse and changing transportation needs of individuals and communities that cannot/may not heavily rely on their own vehicles. This, in turn, can contribute to USDOT’s priorities of “reducing inequities across our transportation systems and the communities they affect” as well as “growing an inclusive and sustainable economy”. By adopting a multidisciplinary approach in fields such as human factors, wearable technology, and data analytics, a foundational understanding of the behaviors of rental car users will be established and quantified to promote a safe and inclusive transportation system. This study can be further extended to foster research collaboration and enhance collective comprehension in (1) enhancing the global competitiveness of the car rental business; (2) enhancing the mobility of people in diverse communities, and 3) integrating in-vehicle assistive technology and transiting to automatic vehicles within the context of a smart city.