We’re all guilty of making a cell phone call while driving by an accident scene or changing the radio station while zipping through a construction zone.
A new University of Central Florida study featured on the Discovery Channel’s Daily Planet show indicates that facing multiple distractions behind the wheel at once leads to much more weaving in and out of lanes and slowing down excessively.
“I’m not unrealistic enough to believe that people are going to stop using their cell phones because Americans live by their phones,” Ron Tarr, director of UCF’s RAPTER Lab at the Institute for Simulation and Training, told the Discovery Channel. “But if we can raise their awareness and start having an effect … it will hopefully save lives and reduce the accidents.”
The U.S. Department of Transportation-funded study focuses on the impact distractions such as cell phone calls, driving through work zones and changing an iPod channel have on commercial truck drivers. Researchers at UCF put those truck drivers in a full motion-based driving simulator with a real truck cab that realistically recreates driving conditions.
Video cameras in the cab track when the drivers’ eyes strayed away from the road. And Electroencephalogram (EEG) head gear recorded drivers’ brain activity.
The study could help governments and trucking companies improve training to better prepare drivers for distractions. It also raises awareness about the impact of a picking up a call or using touch screen devices. Many participating drivers said they had no idea how much distractions affect the way they drive before they completed the study.