Distracted Driving Translational Research for Injury Prevention (TRIP) Laboratory

Motor vehicle collisions (MVCs) are one of the leading causes of death for Alabamians across the lifespan. Highway fatalities are a major epidemic in this country; and most occur on rural roads involving rural residents. Most car crashes in Alabama take place in urban areas - but most collisions involving fatalities occur on rural roads, according to data compiled by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Younger and older drivers pose the greatest risk in terms of unsafe driving and crashes. The proposed study will examine the impact of roadway and driver factors on rural road crashes. There are two specific aims: (1) to examine at-risk drivers, namely teens and older adults, operating a new state-of-the-art high fidelity driving simulator which will provide a hands-on, full-scale educational and research driving simulation experience for participants in varying roadway conditions (curvatures, weather conditions, light level, road elevation, intersections), (2) to examine what individual difference factors (age, distractibility) predict risky driving behavior under varying roadway conditions. Task 1: Simulator acquisition and build out. Simulated driving environments give the user a sense of being fully immersed in an actual driving scenario. A virtual experience provides key learning opportunities for both researchers and participants in a controlled, safe setting through realistic virtual images, high quality sound, and the feeling of being surrounded by the virtual world rather than just viewing it on the screen; it provides users the ability to truly interact and immerse themselves with the virtual world. While the driving simulator facility will be established at the University of Alabama, Birmingham (UAB), it will provide avenues for collaborative partnerships with government, industry, academia, and various constituencies. This unique driving simulation platform is designed to integrate simulators for both training and research purposes, providing a real-time dynamic that represents a variety of vehicle models quickly and accurately. The simulator will take into account the vehicle in its entirety, calculating the torques at the wheels based on brake pedal, gear, and accelerator pedal inputs, as well as damping rates, bump stops, anti-sway bars, and a myriad of other features providing participants with a more realistic and ultimately beneficial learning environment. The state-of the-art driving Crash rates by Age Group; Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), 2002 simulator provides audio, visual, simulation and animation software; simulation computer; flat screen 80" system with LCD projector; rear screen and projector; motion-base; equipment setup, training and maintenance; simulation library. The platform can make use of a variety of cab, control loading and visual display configurations, and can fully support the data input and output requirements of various cab types. Seed funding has been secured to begin the work of this exciting initiative. Investments of $100K have been received in addition to a new vehicle, provided by one of Alabama's global car manufacturers, that will be retrofitted to meet the specifications of the simulation project. However, the protect hopes to identify additional community and state partners to help build the most advanced facility in Alabama. Task 2: Start-Up (Preparation of driving simulator scenario/Staff training/IRB approval). For this task, the project will undertake one of the most critical components of this investigation: the preparation of driving simulator scenario. The Principal Investigator (PI) and Simulator Technician have extensive experience in the development of sophisticated scenarios to address various research questions of interest (Stavrinos et al., 2013; Stavrinos et al., 2015). Data provided by Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) will inform scenario development to ensure selected parameters are representative of real-world roadway environments that may be encountered by the state's drivers. Particular attention will be given to select roadway segments that have the highest frequencies of crashes. In general, the scenario will feature a rural roadway with curvatures, varying superelevation, intersections, and hazards randomly occurring so that the project can test how various drivers maneuver/react to various roadway design elements. Further, various weather conditions (e.g., rain, sleet) and light levels (e.g., dusk, night) will be incorporated. Questionnaires examining driving-related constructs (e.g., demographics, personality) will also be prepared to assess how individuals' differences factor into driver responses. Staff will be trained during this phase, as the PI has extensive experience in mentoring nearly 100 graduate and undergraduate students to date (many of whom come from diverse backgrounds) who have assisted with data collection from human subjects in transportation related projects. Research assistants in the lab assist will assist with data collection for course credit (i.e., at no cost to ALDOT) and will have opportunities to present results at scientific meetings. All study procedures will be reviewed and approved by the UAB Institutional Review Board (UAB IRB). Task 3: Subject Recruitment/Data Collection. One hundred drivers (50 teens and 50 older adults) will be recruited from within the community to participate. The project established relationships with local school systems for the recruitment of younger drivers, as well as access to nearly 1000 undergraduate psychology students that may participate for course credit. Further, as part of the Center for Research in Applied Gerontology, the project directs access to a database of over 10,000 older drivers who may be contacted to participate in our research. Participants will complete a one hour session at our lab on campus. After a brief practice drive to become acquainted with the simulator, participants will drive in the scenario developed in Task 2. For part of the drive, participants will be asked to perform various secondary tasks (e.g., talk on a cell phone, text message). After the drive, participants will complete several questionnaires addressing various individual factors such as demographics, personality, sensation seeking, cognition, and driving history and experience. Participants will receive monetary compensation for participation. Task 4: Data Management and Analysis. The following surrogate measures of safety will be electronically recorded by the simulator: (a) lane changing, (b) average driving speed, (c) motor vehicle collisions and close calls, (d) gap acceptance when turning and when changing lanes, (e) interval to lead vehicle, (f) lane deviations/swerving behavior, (g) response time/braking maneuvers. The PI, an early career female transportation professional, has a strong track record of managing and analyzing simulator data outcomes. Task 5: Final Report and Other Deliverables: Research results will be widely disseminated through several mechanisms including (but not limited to): (a) a final report to ALDOT, (b) presentations at local, regional, and national scientific meetings, (c) at least one manuscript submitted to a peer-reviewed scientific journal, (d) presentation of results to community organizations and other external agencies, and (e) press releases in a variety of media outlets (e.g., newspaper, television, radio). The project will provide attribution to the ALDOT in all dissemination efforts.