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Driver Distraction:
Results from Naturalistic Teenage
Driving Studies
Charlie Klauer, Ph. D.
Research Scientist
Group Lead: Teen Risk and Injury Prevention
Center for Vulnerable Road Users
Virginia Tech Transportation Institute
• Driver distraction, defined here as engaging in a
secondary task or activity that is not central to the
primary task of driving, has been shown to be a
contributing factor for many crashes.
• Secondary tasks and other activities in which
drivers choose to engage while driving is also
known to be highly varied, including very complex
activities (e.g., text messaging on a cellular device)
to very simple activities (e.g., selecting a radio
A New Method of Study:
Large-Scale Naturalistic Driving
•40 to 100
•No instructions
•12 to 18 mos.
•10,000’s of
Driving Safety Research
Epidemiological Studies
Test Track
Lab Experiment
• Missing Piece?
Naturalistic Data Collection Approach
Highly capable instrumentation (well
beyond EDRs)
• Multiple channels of digital, compressed
• Multiple radar sensors front, rear and/or side
• Machine vision-based lane tracker
• Many other sensors: GPS, glare, RF,
acceleration, yaw rate, controls, etc.
• Cell phone, wireless internet, or hardwire
• Ties into vehicle networks to obtain other
• Have not yet captured a large number of crash events
• To overcome this limitation several studies have utilized
“near crashes” in combination with crashes.
• Near crashes, in this case, are defined as having all of
the elements of a crash with the exception that the driver
implements a successful evasive maneuver.
• The 100 Car Study showed that near crash involvement
is correlated with crash involvement across differing
• There is a growing body of evidence that combining
crash and near crash events provides a valid measure of
overall crash risk.
Results: Driver inattention is a key contributing
factor in crashes for both truck and light vehicles.
• The largest single contributing factor is looking away from the roadway
just prior to an unexpected event or condition. This accounts for
somewhere between 70% and 90% of unsafe events.
• Engaging in activities that are unrelated to driving (i.e., “secondary
tasks”) and external distractions account for most of the inattentionrelated risk.
– High Risk: Looking away many times and/or long periods
– Includes: Cell phone dialing, text messaging, Ipod/MP3
manipulation, and internet interaction.
– Much less risk: Eating/drinking, talking to passengers, simple radio
functions, and even talking on a cell phone.
• Teens are four times more likely to be involved in a near crash or crash
while performing a secondary task than their adult counterparts.
Analysis Approach
• Data analyses were conducted utilizing the “100
car” and heavy truck naturalistic driving databases.
• These data were specifically coded for the purpose
of assessing secondary task distraction.
• From these data, an “event” database of crashes
and near crashes was created with
– 830 crashes, minor collisions and near crashes (100 Car)
– 118 crashes, minor collisions, and near crashes (34
• These data were also used to develop a “nonevent” or baseline database to assess exposure.
• These results have significant design implications
for driver-vehicle interfaces
– Cognitive-only, or auditory-voice secondary task
interfaces will generally be less risky than visuomanual secondary tasks.
– The tasks with the highest crash risk are those that
require multiple glances away from the road.
Hand-held is substantially riskier than
“true” hands-free.
• Operating a complex hand-held device is
significantly more risky than a hands-free
• Dialing and answering a hand-held phone were
both higher risk tasks, even in comparison to the
often longer task of talking on a hand held phone.
• Greatest proportion of risk does not come from the
conversation or act of holding a phone to one’s ear,
it comes from the complex task components of
dialing, answering, texting, etc. that require multiple
glances away from the roadway.
Cognitive versus Visual
• Conversation may be distracting but it
does not translate into crashes/nearcrashes
– True for naturalistic data and crash database
• Visual distraction, eyes off forward
roadway increases crash/near crash risk
– True for naturalistic data and controlled
Future NDS
• SHRP 2
– ~3000 participants
• Supervised Practice Driving Study
– 90 teenaged drivers
• MSF 100 Motorcycle Study

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