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Keep your eyes (and attention!) on the road: the impact of distracted driving on road safety

Brake, a national road safety charity, has renewed its call for a ban on the use of hands-free phones while driving. This follows the publication of new research by The University of Sussex, which found talking on a hands-free phone to be similarly distracting to talking on a hand-held phone while driving.

This latest research shows that it is not so much the holding of the phone, but actually engaging in a conversation that diverts the driver’s attention away from the road. Having a conversation was found to use more of the brain’s visual processing resources than previously thought.

The researchers go on to clarify that talking to a passenger does not present the same danger as a passenger is usually able to see the same hazards on the road ahead and will moderate their conversation accordingly.

Similar research conducted at the University of Houston looked at the effect of being absent minded, being upset, or texting while driving. The driver’s handling became ‘jittery’ in all three states, but only resulted in significant lane deviations in the case of texting. This effect is attributed to texting interrupting a driver’s eye-hand coordination loop, which inhibits the brain’s natural corrective actions.

These recent studies contribute to a raft of existing research showing that any use of a phone is distracting from the task in hand and is potentially unsafe. For instance, researchers from the University of Utah analysed the performance of 41 motorists who drove a simulator for an eight-mile course while having a conversation on a hands-free mobile, a conversation with a partner in the car, and no conversation. They found that talking on the hands-free mobile had the most damaging effect on the drivers' performances. While talking on mobiles, drivers were more likely to drift from their lane and were four times more likely to miss their turning for the end of the journey.

Clearview Intelligence is committed to making journeys safer and it’s great to see research is raising awareness of the issues of driving while distracted. Our Strategic Advisor, Dr Stephen Ladyman is regularly invited to speak at Road Safety seminars on the issue of inattentional blindness, a phenomenon in which the driver is too focused on instrumentation, conversation, directions, etc. rather than on the road ahead and the task in hand. This concept is explained further in: Is inattentional blindness the biggest threat to road safety in the UK?

Independent research conducted by the Transport Research Institute at Edinburgh Napier University, examines how Clearview’s technology can contribute to reducing driver error and influencing behaviour at roundabouts by making the delineation of the lanes more conspicuous. This research is based on the award-winning installation of IRS2 intelligent hardwired road studs at the Sheriffhall Roundabout on the Edinburgh ring-road, designed to guide drivers safely across a complex roundabout and encourage better lane discipline and attention.

Initial study results presented at the ITS European Congress earlier this month suggest that this application of innovative technology is having the desired effect by reducing the number of collisions and keeping traffic flowing.

As with wearing seat belts and banning the use of hand-held phones, educating drivers and influencing their behaviour so that these things are a natural part of driving is crucial. Using education and information to improve road safety and change driver behaviour is something we strongly believe in at Clearview Intelligence.

Would you like to understand how our intelligent transport solutions can help you to enhance road safety and positively influence driver behaviour? Contact us.

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