Washington: Virginia Tech researchers have found that using or reaching out for a handheld cell phone, reading or writing, or reaching for a non-cell phone object, or using touchscreen menus on a vehicle instrument panel while driving, can increase risk of being involved in a crash. Being in an obvious emotional state also adds to the risk factor.
Tom Dingus, lead author of the study and director of the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute said that we have known for years that driver-related factors exist in a high percentage of crashes, but this is the first time we have been able to definitively determine, using high-severity, crash-only events that total more than 900–the extent to which such factors do contribute to crashes.
Furthermore, the study highlighted how driving while observably angry, sad, crying, or emotionally agitated can increase driver risk nearly 10 times. Traveling well above the speed limit creates about 13 times the risk, and driver performance errors such as sudden or improper braking or being unfamiliar with a vehicle or roadway have an impact on individual risk.
Researchers found several factors previously thought to increase driver risk, including applying makeup or following a vehicle too closely, actually had a lower prevalence in the naturalistic driving study, meaning they were minimally present or were not present at all in the crashes analyzed.
Dingus added that they ultimate goal was to identify those risks and to help others create the necessary countermeasures to ensure the safety of ground transportation users.
The study is published in the journal of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.(ANI)