Development and Evaluation of an Attention Maintenance Training Program

This proposed research focuses on one of the key attributes that puts younger drivers at increased risk. In particular, we will focus on the finding that younger drivers pay less attention to the forward roadway and/or are more likely to be engaged in a distracting behavior. Distractions are estimated to cause some 20% - 30% of crashes among older teen drivers, and to be larger among newly licensed drivers than they are among more experienced drivers. Furthermore there is evidence to suggest that the longer time that younger drivers spend with their eyes off the forward roadway leads to an increased potential of an incident. Nevertheless, the data suggest that it may be possible to train newly licensed drivers to develop and adopt a more strategic scan pattern that allows successful completion of a task without a decrease in driving safety. Given both the increased number of in-vehicle electronic devices and the potential impact on traffic safety of a program designed to increase attention to the forward roadway, there is a definitive need to identify an effective attention maintenance training program. This research proposes such a training program, in the form of a Roadway Attention Maintenance Training (RAMT) program which aims to reduce the time that newly-licensed drivers spend with their eyes away from the forward roadway to under two seconds a glance, a duration below which the risk is minimal. The training will be developed as a computer-based training program and will consist of game like elements which make the benefits and costs associated with performing an in-vehicle secondary task similar to what they might be in the real world. Following development of RAMT, its effectiveness will be evaluated using a virtual world in a driving simulator environment where drivers' eye movements will be tracked to quantify their attention maintenance. The evaluation will then move to an on-road environment (closed course) to determine the extent to which the training translates to the real world driving environment. Given the national attention currently being focused on younger drivers, distracted driving, and traffic safety in general, it is anticipated that this research will serve as the foundation for larger-scale future research efforts at the national level.