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Distracted driving causes

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Many drivers are likely to associate distracted or inattentive driving with cell phone usage, such as making calls or texting. Distraction due to calling and texting gets a lot of media attention and has inspired law makers to take notice. In Minnesota, texting is illegal for all drivers and making cell phone calls of any types, such as using a hands-free link through a vehicle or Bluetooth device, is illegal for teen drivers under the age of 18. However, cell phone use is just one of the more obvious forms of driver distraction. Driver distraction can be visual, cognitive, or manual or a combination of these three things.
Texting involves all three forms of distraction: visual (looking at the phone and not the road), cognitive (mentally composing the message instead of processing roadway information), and manual (manipulating the phone keyboard instead of the steering wheel). This is why texting is considered to be a significant risk factor for drivers and why laws banning texting are becoming increasingly common in the U.S. Other tasks that involve visual and/or manual distraction include interacting with the radio, a navigation system, a mobile device such as an iPod, reading, eating and drinking. Although not all forms of distraction are equally distracting, all can be dangerous under certain circumstances.
Cognitive distraction can be more difficult for drivers to identify. Some forms of cognitive distraction include driving while preoccupied with other thoughts due to worry or stress, or when drivers end up "lost in thought." Alternatively, daydreaming or "being lost in thought" is estimated to be a factor in about 4% of crashes. Cognitive distraction can also occur during conversations with passengers or while interacting with a speech-activated interface in a vehicle (e.g., voice commands to make a call or send a text). When a parent turns around to talk to a child in the backseat, they are visually and cognitive distracted. In many cases involving cognitive distraction, a driver's eyes are on the road but his or her mind is not, potentially resulting in impaired response times to driving events or hazards. This can make cognitive distractions appear less risky, but one's ability to respond appropriately to changes in traffic or along the road can be impaired by cognitive distraction.
Driving researchers, practitioners, and safety agencies are all focused on better understanding the impact distracted or inattentive driving has on crash rates in order to identify countermeasures to reduce or prevent it. Distracted driving has become such a significant concern that the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) has set up a website specifically related to distracted driving: http://www.distraction.gov/index.htm

Behavioral mapping: the path to a safer driving experience

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New vehicles today are sophisticated driving machines--and they're also becoming rich sources of information. Sensors collect data about everything from how fast you're going to when the wipers kick in. At the same time, GPS navigation systems and the infrastructure built for mobile devices are making it increasingly possible to track where vehicles are and gather vast amounts of data. What does this mean for safety? Capturing the actual behavior of drivers could lead to a "behavioral map" revealing how drivers dynamically experience and adapt to road networks--and give engineers and designers insight for creating a safer driving experience. mapping.jpg.

Moving beyond mobility: measuring accessibility in U.S. cities

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Every year, Americans face a steady stream of discouraging news. We're spending more time stuck in traffic. Congestion in our metro areas is on the rise. Yet these reports focus almost exclusively on traffic mobility--how quickly travelers can move between any two points via automobile or transit. But according to a new University of Minnesota study, there's much more to the story. The new study, Access Across America, goes beyond congestion rankings to focus on accessibility: a measure that examines both land use and the transportation system. Full story in April Catalyst.250x140_map.jpg

When traffic signals run efficiently, local road networks become faster and safer. And with increasing congestion on our nation's roadways, transportation engineers are looking for new ways to monitor and manage local traffic signal systems. Despite this growing need for traffic signal data and analysis, most existing signal control systems don't make it convenient to monitor or archive traffic signal performance data. That's where SMART Signal (Systematic Monitoring of Arterial Road and Traffic Signals) technology developed by University of Minnesota researchers comes in. Full story in April Catalyst.light.jpg

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