We’ve said this before: drivers are the leading cause of Cedar Rapids car accidents.
While experts know that drivers cause 90 percent of accidents, they don’t know what happens in the minutes leading up to a crash. Accident investigators use clues such as tread marks, phone records, and vehicle damage to figure out why an accident happened, but these clues don’t tell the whole story. Was the driver talking on the phone? Was the driver eating French fries? Did a screaming child distract her? There are things we can never know unless we are present when the crash takes place. A new study hopes to change that.
The Naturalistic Driving Study is a project of the Strategic Highway Research Program (SHRP 2). This federally funded program will observe drivers in more than 3,100 cars nationwide. The cars belong to volunteers whose ages and genders were chosen to proportionally reflect the U.S. population. Each volunteer was paid $500 to participate in the study.
Each volunteer’s car has been equipped with accelerometers, radar, GPS, and other sensors that track a driver’s use of the brakes, turn signals, horns, and lights. There is an alcohol sensor that determines if anyone in the vehicle has been drinking and cameras that record everything that happens in the car from the expression on the driver’s face to how his hands interact with the controls.
The data will be combined with detailed roadway information from six cities: Bloomington, Indiana; Buffalo, New York; Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina; Tampa, Florida; central Pennsylvania; and Seattle, Washington.
When the information is combined, the researchers hope to have a complete picture of how drivers interact with their vehicles and how road conditions affect driver behavior.
The Naturalistic Driving Study is not the first project of this type. Virginia Tech University conducted a similar study on only 100 cars about ten years ago. There has been no other study on this scale.
As of August, researchers have collected data on 34 million miles of driving and more than 500 crashes. They expect to have information on more than 700 crashes and 7,000 near-accidents when the study concludes at the end of this month. That data will be used to determine why accidents happen and how they can be prevented.
It will be some time before this information is used to prevent Cedar Rapids car crashes, and some of the work will be done right here in Iowa. Researchers at Iowa State University will be looking at how driver behavior and roadway characteristics influence crashes on two-lane country roads. Other organizations will be analyzing the data to answer other questions such as how cellphones are used in vehicles and whether offset left-turn lanes reduce crashes. We look forward to learning more.
The Cedar Rapids car accident attorneys at Hupy and Abraham represent victims of car accidents throughout Iowa. To learn how we can help you, please call 800-800-5678.