The Virginia Tech Transportation Institute has conducted a naturalistic driving study in which researches track the real-time actions of drivers by equipping vehicles with sensors, radars, and cameras with the goal of learning what specific distracted driving behaviors and actions are the most dangerous and result in the most number of collisions.
One of the most surprising and interesting facts concluded by this study was its findings related to the impact that the emotions of a driver have on their ability to safely drive and navigate roadways while driving. According to researches conducting this Virginia Tech Transportation Institute study, drivers who are visibly sad, angry, crying, or emotionally distressed increase their risk of being involved in a automobile collision by nearly tenfold.
Another conclusion drawn from this study is that motorists more than double their risk of crashing when engaging in distracted driving behaviors requiring them to take their eyes off the roadway. Some of the more common distracted driving behaviors reported in this study that fall into this category are using handheld cell phones, reading, writing, and using touchscreen menus or panels. Research conducted in this study shows that typical drivers participate in some form of distracted driving activity over 50 percent of the time that they are driving.
The principal author of this study and directory of the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, Tom Dingus, states that “these findings are important because we see a younger population of drivers, particularly teens, who are more prone to engaging in distracting activities while driving,” and that their “analysis shows that, if we take no steps in the near future to limit the number of distracting activities in a vehicle, those who represent the next generation of drivers will only continue to be at greater risk of a crash.”
This study represents the most comprehensive and largest realistic auto collision database ever compiled and released for public consumption. The database includes over 1,600 confirmed collisions covering all severities of crashes, from low to severe, and also containing police-reportable collisions.
When analyzing the 905 higher severity crashes involving either injury or property damage in the dataset, researches found that driver-related influences including fatigue, impairment, distraction, and fatigue were present in near 90 percent of all the 905 higher severity crashes. Tom Dingus says “We have known for years that driver-related factors exist in a high percentage of crashes, but this is the first time we have been able to definitively determine — using high-severity, crash-only events that total more than 900–the extent to which such factors do contribute to crashes,”
Some of the other most eye opening and thought-provoking facts and statistics that this study came away with, include:
Numerous factors formally thought to increase driver risk of collision, including following vehicles too closely or applying makeup have a lower prevalence, which means that these factors were very minimal or weren’t present at all in the crashes analyzed in the study. Also factors like interacting with a child in the rear seat of the vehicle were discovered to have a lower risk factor then previously thought.
Driving at a speed significantly higher then the posted speed limit results in a 13 times higher risk of collision, and driving performance errors like improper braking or not being familiar with the vehicle or roadway have an effect on individual risk.
Everyone of the factors and influences that were analyzed and researched in the study were compared and contrasted to episodes of model driving, meaning the driver is attentive, sober, and alert. This study marks the first time in history that such a comparative analysis has been made and studied.