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LSU Seeks to Become Go-To in Studies on Driver Safety

dt.common.streams.StreamServer.jpg Louisiana State University has undertaken a study that could be extremely beneficial to society. Researchers at LSU have spent the past year and a half trying to discover how unsafe cellphone use is while driving. Researchers have invited people to test their driving abilities at the College of Engineering. Upon arrival, the volunteers buckle themselves into the university’s virtual driving simulator. The simulator, which looks similar to a Ford Focus without the wheels, has a number of cameras, projectors, and screens that are meant to simulate real driving situations.

LSU plans to become one of the universities in the country that people turn to when they want to study things that have an impact on driver safety, such as road conditions, medication, and texting. The results of the LSU study, “Distracted Driving and Associated Crash Risks,” should be released within the next month. At this point, researchers have discovered a huge difference between the effect on driver safety when the driver is talking on a cellphone versus texting. According to John LeBlanc, executive director of the Louisiana Highway Safety Commission, the problem of distracted driving is getting worse as technology expands. LeBlanc also stated that research shows that at any given time, more than 660,000 people are using a cellphone or other electronic device while driving.

Sherif Ishak, Associate Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, explained how the research process has worked. He stated that volunteer drivers were instructed to do certain tasks, such as follow a vehicle in front of them, while they would receive phone calls or send and respond to text messages. Volunteer drivers were judged based upon how well they maintained speed, whether they had sudden moments of acceleration or braking, and whether they could stay in the same lane without moving from side to side. Ishak reported that “cellphone conversations didn’t reveal any significant difference in driving behavior.” However, texting while driving did reveal an impact on driver safety. Drivers who were instructed to send and receive text messages overall had a difficult time staying in one lane without swerving. Louisiana State Police Capt. Doug Cain commented on the continuing problem of texting while driving. He said, “All it takes is a few seconds of distracted driving for something bad to happen.”

LSU studies cellphone use by drivers, www.palmbeachpost.com December 15, 2013


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