Researchers create dataset to analyze distracted driving

Aug. 15 (UPI) — Researchers at the University of Houston and the Texas A&M Transportation Institute have developed an new dataset to study drivers’ reactions to distractions.

Distracted driving from texting and other causes caused 3,477 deaths and 391,000 injuries in 2015, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The study, published today in Scientific Data, was conducted on 68 volunteers who had a valid driver’s license and normal or corrected vision using a driving simulator.

Researchers tracked distraction in drivers using thermal and visual cameras, palm sensors, heart rate and breathing rate sensors, and a system to track eye movement.

The study tracked sensorimotor distractions such as texting, cognitive distractions such as absorbing thoughts and emotional distractions.

Results showed that texting led to significantly more dangerous driving, but a sixth sense protected participants against distraction from emotional distress or absent-mindedness.Texting compromised that sixth sense allowing drivers to drift out of traffic lanes.

“Eye tracking and breathing rate proved useful metrics for measuring the impact of texting while driving,” Ioannis Pavlidis, professor and director of the Computational Physiology Lab at the University of Houston, said in a news release. “But that wasn’t helpful in cases of emotional or cognitive distractions.”

Heart rate sensors and perinasal perspiration measured with miniature thermal imagers were effective at tracking all forms of distraction.

The study findings can be used for the development of safety systems possibly by using smart technology such as smart watches to measure heart rate.

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