Sunday, May 27, 2007

UI researcher: Drivers often override cars' safety features

Driver feedback does not always work as intended ...

"Car safety equipment helps prevent crashes in the short term, but over the long term, driver safety depends on one thing: the driver.

Researchers are learning that drivers sometimes adapt to new technology designed to make them safer in ways that actually might be harmful, said Linda Ng Boyle, assistant professor of mechanical and industrial engineering in the University of Iowa College of Engineering.

Take those variable message signs placed on the side of the road that warn of bad conditions ahead.

Boyle's research shows signs make drivers slow down at first. But after they think the danger has passed, drivers won't go back to their normal speed. In fact, they'll go even faster.

"You're going faster than you normally would," she said. "So have we put you in a safer position?"

Boyle, a human factors researcher in the UI Public Policy Center and faculty director of the Human Factors and Statistical Modeling Lab, studies risks that affect driving.

Yet she says she's as guilty as anyone. She used to drive a car with a warning light that told her when she ran low on gas. After a while, she started waiting until the light came on to go to the pump. Then she got a new car that didn't have the light.

"And because I didn't get that feedback anymore, I kept running out of gas," she said."    (Continued via Gazette Online)    [Ergonomics Resources]

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