Thursday, April 22, 2021

The UI’s National Advanced Driving Simulator (NADS) recently celebrated their 20th year of operation. During that time, they have completed dozens of studies that examine one of the top crash causes: driver inattention. Inattention represents a broad set of issues regarding how we attend to the road that includes fatigue, impairment, and distraction, among others. Driver distraction is most commonly defined as a diversion of attention away from activities critical for safe driving.

“Researchers at the NADS have studied the basic mechanisms of driver distraction for over 20 years and have developed new technologies to assist drivers when they get too distracted. Many of those technologies are in cars today,” says NADS Director Dan McGehee.

Distraction research has taken UI researchers beyond the simulator and on the road as well.

For over 10 years special recording devices were installed in volunteers’ cars to understand distraction, inattention, and how and why drivers make errors. “This allows us to get a unique window into how and when drivers are distracted,” explains Cher Carney, senior research associate at NADS, who has used similar research techniques in the past. She notes, “We are able to see drivers distracted by their phone, by other passengers, and by other activities that pull their attention from the road.”

All that distraction leads to dangerous situations:

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that 3,142 people were killed from distracted driving in 2019—a 10% increase from 2018.

“The mission behind all of our research is to make our roads safer and help reduce these traffic fatalities—especially in cars of the future,” explains McGehee.

The NADS continues their research in a variety of behavioral and technological means, in partnership with the auto industries and the U.S. DOT. April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month. Join us in taking the pledge to not drive distracted. #JustDrive