April 27th, 2007

Researchers Plan “Naturalistic” Project to Improve Teen Driving

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Human factors researchers at two United States universities are planning an unusual project for the spring. With the aim of making teens safer drivers, they will show them exactly how they drive. There is no driving simulator for this test: the teens will be out on public roads and in the vehicles they usually drive.

It is a joint project of the University of Iowa (UI) and the University of Minnesota (UMN).

This experiment is the “first of its kind to look at the use of on-board video event recorders to improve teen driving in urban settings,” according to Daniel McGehee, director of the Human Factors and Vehicle Safety Research Division of the University of Iowa (UI) Public Policy Center. In a news release about the project, he said the researchers will study teens using “naturalistic” methods to capture potentially unsafe driving on a palm-sized event recorder installed in participants’ vehicles. The methods include having drivers use their own vehicles rather than test vehicles or simulators.

Only certain events will ‘trigger’ the system to begin recording a 20-second clip. ‘Triggered’ events include abrupt braking, steering or acceleration. While these abrupt maneuvers are generally associated with unsafe driving, good driving responses are also captured, said McGehee, who also serves as adjunct associate professor in the College of Engineering and the College of Public Health.

“The central issue we are studying is how these 20-second videos can be turned into ‘teachable moments’ for both parents and teens,” he explained. He describes the approach as mentoring versus monitoring. He sees it as a way to reduce the number of unsafe incidents and help teens understand their own driving styles. “This type of feedback can also help parents to gain trust and confidence in their new teen driver,” he added.

Fifty students are being recruited for the study, which will be conducted at Eagan High School in Eagan, Minnesota. The Eagan school was chosen because of its proximity to a major intra-city freeway network.

This project is the second in a series examining teen driving during the first six months after obtaining a driver’s license. The Eagan study follows a successful pilot project in rural Iowa, where 25 teens logged more than 350,000 miles. The news release notes they significantly lowered the number of potentially actions, such as speeding through turns and curves, in the year of the study.

Source: University of Iowa News Services



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