Evaluating driver distraction countermeasures

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Rikard Karlsson

Statistics showing that in-vehicle driver distraction is a major contributing cause in road accidents is presented. Driver distraction is defined building on the driving theory by Gibson and Crooks. The idea to use driver distraction countermeasures as a way of mitigating the effects of the driver distraction problem is then introduced. A requirement list is formulated with ten requirements that distraction countermeasures should meet. A simplification of regarding distraction as a gaze direction problem makes way for designing an experiment to evaluate two driver distraction countermeasures in which new eye- tracking technology plays a key role. The experiment also makes use of a simulator, a surrogate in-vehicle information system as a distractor, and thirty subjects. The most important dependent measures were in-vehicle glance time and a steering wheel reaction time measure. The evaluated countermeasures - a blue flash at middle of the road position and a kinesthetic brake pulse - could, however, not be shown to meet the most important of the requirements formulated. The lack of effect of the countermeasures in the experiment may either depend on their actual inefficiency or on methodological shortcomings of the experiment. These alternatives are discussed. It is speculated that the biggest problems with the possible lack of actual efficiency have to do with that the theoretical basis for using a flash did not transfer to the driving setting, and that the brake pulse used was too weak. The methodological problems have to do with the non-validated dependent measures used, missing data, nuisance warnings, insufficient distractors, non-precise hypotheses, and difficulties with separating the effect of the countermeasures from the psychological force to look on the road.

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