Study Provides Researchers with New Tools to Measure Driver Distraction
FARMINGTON HILLS, MI – Researchers have conducted a four-year, $4-million study — with major funding by the U.S. Department of Transportation through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration — to evaluate how drivers balance their attention between the road and other activities, such as tuning the radio, listening to books on tape, dialing a hand-held cell phone, and entering a destination into a navigation system. The results will help researchers and auto industry engineers determine how multi-tasking while driving affects driver attention and performance. The results also will provide automakers with tools that can help them design vehicle technologies that do not overly distract drivers.
The study was conducted by the Crash Avoidance Metrics Partnership – Driver Workload Metrics Project (CAMP-DWM), which brought together Ford, General Motors, Nissan Technical Center North America, and Toyota Technical Center USA with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
The CAMP-DWM research showed that visual and manual tasks cause far more eye glances away from the road than tasks such as listening to a book on tape or voice-guided navigation. Furthermore, CAMP test subjects who took their eyes off the road had a greater chance of missing an event that could lead to a crash, such as the driver ahead suddenly braking.
The CAMP-DWM research measured driver performance using 22 conventional, experimental, and advanced technology in-vehicle tasks. Data were collected in the laboratory, on a test track, and on interstate highways. While drivers performed these tasks as they drove, researchers measured such things as eye glances away from the road, lane positioning, and the number of lane crosses; speed maintenance; and the percentage of missed events (such as not seeing a car braking ahead) and response times.
The study used 234 licensed drivers between the ages of 21 and 79. In each venue, the drivers performed tasks under a variety of experimental conditions. In addition, a two-minute segment of just driving was performed under the same conditions for comparison purposes. In the on-road and test track studies, participants drove an instrumented car between two other vehicles while performing the tasks. Researchers measured a driver’s ability to recognize that the lead vehicle was slowing down, or that its center high-mounted stoplight (CHMSL) had come on, or that the following vehicle was activating a turn signal. Instruments inside the test subject’s vehicle recorded vehicle control data such as keeping in the lane, maintaining a given speed, eye glance patterns, and responses to event-detection scenarios.
The CAMP-DWM report concludes that no single measurement tool captures the effects of distraction, or workload, on driver performance. The CAMP findings also support the voluntary industry guidelines developed in 2002 and revised in 2003 and 2006 by the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers to address vehicle technologies and their effects on driver distraction.