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Eye tracking study may reduce teen crash rates

Eye tracking study may reduce teen crash ratesAn upcoming study at Montana State University’s Western Transportation Institute will use eye tracking to research the efficacy of virtual reality training to improve young drivers’ ability to perceive road hazards. The statistics about teen drivers are alarming, but most accidents involving teen drivers don’t happen for the reasons you might think. A 2011 study of 800 crashes involving teen drivers found that 76% of the crashes were due to a critical error caused by inexperience and distraction rather than recklessness or alcohol. Two of the three most common errors had to do with visual behavior and attention while behind the wheel. The MSU study will directly address these issues using eye tracking as a way to measure visual attention, in effort to improve roadway safety in the US.

Two of the most common mistakes responsible for causing almost half of the “critical error” accidents are lack of road scanning skills necessary to see and respond to road hazards and being distracted by something either outside or within the car. Both of these errors can be investigated with eye tracking technology to determine where the eyes of teenage drivers look while they’re behind the wheel and hopefully help in the development of a training program that will teach adolescent drivers better scanning skills.

The MSU study is backed by a $500,000 grant from the National Science Foundation, as well as an additional $500,000 grant from the MJ Murdock Charitable Trust. The study will be lead by researcher and MSU Assistant Professor Laura Stanley, who conducted a study in 2005 on driver distraction when using a cell phone that found handheld and hands-free phones to be equally distracting. The leading cause of death in adolescents is motor vehicle accidents, and Stanley’s hopes to develop at simulated driving program that can be widely implemented to positively impact novice driving crash rates.