Sunday, November 18, 2007

Driver Distractions Major Cause of Road Accidents

It's anything that distracts you ...

"Human behavior is partially responsible for more than 90 percent of vehicle crashes, according to a new study.

Such behavior includes drivers' use of hand-held electronic devices such as cell phones, iPods, MP3 players, DVD players and navigational guides.

The study, "Preventing Crashes: Driver Safety through Human Factors Science," recommends new laws banning the use of hand-held electronic devices, particularly for newly licensed teen drivers.

John Lee, a professor of mechanical and industrial engineering at the University of Iowa, said that the major challenge is the fast development of technology. This leads to the production of new distractions more rapidly than legislation can keep up.

But Lee added that technology can also be used to provide solutions to the distraction problem.

"New technology such as the use of cameras and monitors can enable cars to assess whether a driver is distracted and then guide his attention back to the road," Lee said.

The study, which was under discussion on Tuesday at a congressional briefing, was sponsored by the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society and the American Psychology Association. It examines the status and progress of human factors issues in driver and highway safety.

The study found that looking away from the road before an unexpected event contributes to crashes or near crashes 70 to 90 percent of the time.

Last year alone, highway crashes resulted in nearly 43,000 fatalities and more than 2.5 million injuries, the study says.

The Virginia Tech Transport Institute recently carried out research on both private and commercial drivers. It placed multiple cameras and radar sensors on vehicles to detect the cause of accidents.

The cameras recorded all the driver's activities and eye movements. This made it possible to know when the driver was distracted or drowsy

The research concluded that the major factors that contribute to the risk of crashes include impairment due to alcohol, distraction, drowsiness and error in judgment."    (Continued via Kansas City infoZine News)    [Ergonomics Resources]

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