Texting-While-Driving Coach Slightly Delays Appalling Crashes

By Joseph Calamia | August 11, 2010 11:37 am

drivingtestIf your car could talk, it might tell you to stop texting. At least that’s what one research team hopes: after paying young drivers to perform texting-like games while driving a simulator, they found that visual warnings from an in-car “coach” helped keep drivers’ eyes on the road.

For high-risk drivers, the warning system “more than doubled their time until a virtual crash,” a University of Washington press release says. That might not sound entirely reassuring. But the researchers say a similar system installed on a real car might help risky drivers avoid a crash altogether.

A team led by Linda Ng Boyle, an industrial and systems engineer at the University of Washington, first had a group of 53 drivers, ages 18 to 21, attempt to drive a simulator while simultaneously playing a matching game. As an incentive to take the game seriously, they paid drivers according to the correct number of matches they made. The riskiest drivers took their eyes off the road for between two and a half to three seconds, compared to moderate and low-risk drivers who would glance off the road for less than two seconds during their longest glances.

In later tests the researchers activated the driving coach, which flashed warnings on the matching game’s screen. The study noted that the coach decreased the length of high-risk drivers’ glances by an average of 0.4 seconds, decreased their longest glances by about one second compared to risky coach-less drivers, and increased high-risk drivers’ time to collision by around 8 seconds. In the press release, Ng Boyle says the research shows that driver coaching systems can work for both risky and safer drivers:

“I think that drivers are coachable….  The worst drivers can benefit the most, because we can change their behavior the most dramatically. We can also reinforce the good behavior for safer drivers.”

If future driving coaches can talk, we suggest the voice of Knight Rider’s KITT or, better yet, Obi-wan.

Related content:
Discoblog: Texting While Diving? Buoy Allows Text Messages From Submarines
Discoblog: Woman Receives First Ever PhD in Texting
Discoblog: Watch Those Thumbs Go! Champion Texter Wins $50,000
Discoblog: The New Defense Against Despotism: Text Messaging

Image: Linda Ng Boyle / University of Washington News

  • http://Untitledvanityproject.blogspot.com Rhacodactylus

    Lol, sure we could use an automated in car coach . . . or people could stop freaking texting!

  • Idlewilde

    Yesterday a girl in a large silver pickup truck, about 16 years old, drove by me and my sibs, going about 30 on a residential road. She was texting with both hands and not looking at the road at all. people like this don’t need more electronics, they need their damn license revoked. It’s a wide road without a sidewalk, and if we hadn’t stepped out of the way, she would have hit us.

  • Emily

    Distracted driving is such a relevant topic in today’s society. With technology being used in every aspect in our lives, it’s no wonder that people continue to use this technology while driving. It’s difficult to tell someone who has their cell phone “attached to their hip” at all times to drop everything and ignore all incoming messages and phone calls while they are driving. Any feature that could take away this distraction and help prevent accidents is worth it. I found SMS Replier to use on my phone and have loved it ever since. It is used like an “away message” for my phone, this way my phone calls and texts won’t be ignored and the people trying to contact me won’t feel ignored. This is a life saving app that is easy to use and lets me focus on the road. http://www.smsreplier.com

  • Leila

    I have to say, I have mixed feelings about this. I, like Emily, also use SMSreplier and no longer face the distractions of texting and driving. However, I know that so many other drivers do. I can’t tell you how many times I have almost been hit because the other driver was distracted. I like the idea behind this invention but I’m not too sure that it will really work on the road; it could just serve as another distraction if used incorrectly. If people could just put down their phones we wouldn’t need to jump through hoops to keep everyone safe.

  • Cruz Rountree

    The consequences of distracted driving have to be taken seriously by all drivers. It is the most dangerous thing to do on the road as it’s been proven that our brains are incapable of multitasking.

    Source: http://hartfordauto.thehartford.com/Safe-Driving/Car-Safety/Driving-Safety/cell-phone-laws.shtml


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