Distracted driving is defined as anything that takes a driver’s attention away from driving, such as sending a text, talking on the phone, eating, applying makeup, and listening to music. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately nine people are fatally injured each day in distracted driving accidents. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that 3,477 lives were lost and 391,000 people were injured in car accidents caused by distracted driving in 2015 alone.
Researchers from the University of Houston and the Texas A&M Transportation Institute strive to decrease these alarming odds by examining how drivers respond to different types of distractions. The results of their study, A Multimodal Data Set for Various Forms of Distracted Driving, were recently published in the Scientific Data journal. Participating in the study were 68 volunteers with valid driver’s licenses and normal or corrected-to-normal vision. They were placed in a driving simulator with tracking devices including thermal and visual cameras, palm sensors, heart rate and breathing rate sensors, and an eye tracking system.
The study is the first of its kind to examine the three types of driving distractions: sensorimotor, cognitive, and emotional. Sensorimotor distractions are those involving sensory and motor skills, such as texting. Cognitive distractions are those having to do with mental processing, such as absorbing thoughts. Examples of emotional distractions include both positive and negative emotions such as receiving bad news or heading to a celebration.
Drivers in the study drove the same section of highway four times – once with no distractions and once with each of the other three types of distractions. Their perspiration, heart rate, breathing rate, gaze, and facial expressions were all monitored, as well as driving performance indicators such as speed, acceleration, braking force, steering angle and lane position. Researchers noted that eye tracking and breathing rates were useful only for measuring the impact of sensorimotor distractions and not for measuring cognitive or emotional distractions.
The researchers found that texting while driving, a sensorimotor distraction, led to the most dangerous driving behaviors. Those distracted by cognitive or emotional factors were protected by what the researchers call a “sixth sense.” Drivers who were texting did not experience the same intuition and allowed their vehicles to drift into other lanes.
The Director of the Center for Transportation Safety at the Texas A&M Transportation Institute praised the study for its future implications. He notes that existing smart watches are capable of measuring heart rates and says that the study has provided the groundwork for future safety systems that could detect all forms of distraction in the driver’s sympathetic system. The study’s authors agree, stating in the report that this dataset enables further research into distracted driving behaviors and ways to improve safety.
If you were injured in an accident caused by a distracted driver, contact a knowledgeable Wilmington car accident lawyer at Jacobs & Crumplar, P.A. Our personal injury lawyers have extensive experience representing those injured in car accidents caused by someone else’s negligence. Our offices are located in Georgetown and Wilmington, Delaware, allowing us to serve clients throughout the state. To schedule a free consultation, contact us online or call us at 302-656-5445.