Run-off-the-road crashes contribute to more than half of all vehicle fatalities nationwide. In-vehicle lane-departure warning systems can help reduce the risk of dangerous run-off-the-road crashes, according to a new study from researchers at the U of M’s HumanFIRST Laboratory.
In-vehicle warning systems can track the vehicle’s position in relation to the lane boundary and issue a timely warning. Currently, these systems are in the early stages of development and often don’t use consistent interfaces—making it the ideal time to study exactly how these systems affect driver behavior.
To aid in the development of appropriate and timely warning systems, HumanFIRST researchers studied behavioral responses to in-vehicle lane-departure warning systems using a driving simulator. In the study, participants drove two simulated real-world, two-lane rural highways with a history of lane-departure crashes.
During their drives, participants experienced simulated wind gusts that pushed their vehicle out of the lane. On half the drives, the in-vehicle warning system was active, causing the seat to vibrate and warn the driver when the vehicle was traveling out of the lane; on the other half of drives, the system was inactive. The severity of the run-off-the-road event was measured by how long the driver was out of the lane and how far they traveled out of the lane.
Results reveal that the time drivers spent outside their lane when no system was active was significantly longer than when it was active. One of the biggest predictors of how much time drivers would spend outside their lane was speed—suggesting that if drivers slow down, they can return to their lane more quickly if they unexpectedly exit the lane. Researchers also discovered that distracted driving posed significant risks.
The study results did not show any indication that drivers became dependent or over-reliant on the warning system. In fact, when drivers drove without the lane-departure warning system after repeated exposure to it, they maintained significantly reduced time out of lane and distance out of lane—suggesting use of this lane departure warning system may have significant long-term benefits.
Read the full article in the August issue of Catalyst.