Klobuchar visit highlights U of M distracted driving research

Klobuchar distracted driving eventCTS and the Roadway Safety Institute today hosted U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar with Minnesota high school students, safety leaders, researchers, and advocates to highlight the dangers of distracted driving.

“As a mother of a 20-year-old driver, safety is always on my mind. But you don’t need to be a parent to appreciate the importance of keeping kids’—and really all drivers’— eyes on the road,” Klobuchar said. “We all know that 5 seconds—5 seconds— is the average time your eyes are off the road when you send a text, which means for a driver traveling 55 miles per hour, you actually are going the length of a football field blindfolded.”

Klobuchar went on to cite the sobering statistics of deaths and injuries due to driver distraction, but then got much more personal. “Despite all those numbers that are so startling and so big, no one with me up here is here because of the statistics. They’re here because of lost lives, because of their own family members, and because of those that they want to prevent from being injured or killed.”

Klobuchar distracted driving eventKlobuchar was joined by Donna Berger, director, Office of Traffic Safety, Minnesota Department of Public Safety; Vijay Dixit, a leading distraction-free driving advocate and chair of the Shreya R. Dixit Memorial Foundation; Greg LaVallee, a driving safety advocate from Otsego, Minnesota; student representatives of distraction-free driving clubs at Edina and Eden Prairie high schools; Nichole Morris, principal researcher, HumanFIRST Lab, University of Minnesota; Max Donath, director, Roadway Safety Institute, University of Minnesota; and Laurie McGinnis, director, University of Minnesota Center for Transportation Studies.

Following remarks, the group toured the University’s HumanFIRST Lab, which uses the tools and methods of psychology and human factors engineering to better understand driver performance. High school students from two of the distraction-free driving clubs launched by the Dixit Foundation took turns behind the wheel of the lab’s state-of-the art immersive driving simulator, which is used for researching driver distraction and impairment.

Klobuchar distracted driving eventMorris discussed research at the HumanFIRST Laboratory using technology to improve driver safety. For example, a smartphone app, which offers real-time feedback for teen drivers, also includes a safety mechanism by automatically suppressing the teen’s ability to talk and text while driving.

During the month of April, which was National Distracted Driving Awareness Month, Minnesota law enforcement issued nearly 1,000 citations for distracted driving. In 2015, texting and other forms of distracted driving contributed to 74 deaths on Minnesota roads.

Several of Klobuchar’s key provisions to crack down on distracted driving were included in the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, the first long-term transportation bill passed by Congress in a decade.

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Posted in Events, Safety

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