A Naturalistic Driving Study across the Lifespan

Co-PIs: Despina Stavrinos, Ph.D. and Lesley Ross, Ph.D., University of Alabama at Birmingham

Final Report

UTC Project Information

Driving is both key to maintaining independence and mobility in the United States, as well as one of the leading causes of death for individuals across the lifespan through motor vehicle crashes (MVC). This proposal aims to investigate the complexities surrounding driving in two high risk age groups with the use of naturalistic driving technologies. This will be accomplished through the project’s overarching goal to examine unbiased real-world driving mobility (amount traveled throughout environment), driving safety (crashes/risky driving behavior), and driving behavior (how/when travel occurred) in at-risk drivers across the lifespan, namely younger (16-19) and older (65+) adults. New technology will allow for detailed collection of naturalistic real-world driving outcomes through the use of small GPS and GIS (Global Information Systems; Porter et al., 2002) as well as DriveCam Event recorders (www.drivecam.com). Such systems not only allow for detailed data collection regarding the trip (e.g., speed, traffic, weather, time of day), but also include an inconspicuous wideangled camera for confirmation of the driver, as well as critically important traffic environment related variables and actual unsafe driving behaviors. Funds made available through STRIDE will be used to enroll 12 younger and 12 older drivers (N=24) through current recruitment databases and advertisements within the community. Each participant will undergo a detailed baseline assessment of demographic, cognitive, sensory, and physical/health functioning. Then, we will install each participant’s vehicle with (1) an event-triggered video recording system (DriveCam Event recorder) providing information about high g-force events (i.e., MVCs, near MVCs, and critical incidents as well as distracted driving occurrences) and (2) a GPS and GIS (Global Information Systems) device providing detailed data regarding the trip, speed, traffic, weather, time of day, and traffic surrounding the driver. Two weeks of detailed naturalistic driving data will be collected. Finally, participants will return for a post-test assessment (including detailed self-report driving questionnaires) and for removal of the devices. This process will be repeated concurrently with use of proposed matching funds through our state government partners (see budget), thus doubling the participants.

Overall, we expect to find a low correlation between commonly used self-reported measures of driving, and newer objective measures (GPS/GIS and in vehicle monitoring devices). As one of the first studies to objectively measure distracted driving in older adults, frequency of distracted driving in this high risk group will be available. We expect group differences in frequency of engagement in distracted driving, with teens engaging more frequently. However, similarities between the two groups are expected in risk associated with distracted driving. Risk factors will be examined and are anticipated to be different across the groups. This project directly addresses STRIDE theme areas: safety, livable communities, expansion of workforce, and collaboration with State Departments (ALDOT). Study results will be valuable to various stakeholders including: researchers (dissemination of results/suggestions for areas of needed research), medical community (realistic idea of actual driving and how it relates to self-reported driving), and potential policymakers (actual amount of distracted driving in at-risk age groups and how it relates to driving safety).