Project Summary

    According to the US Department of Transportation over 450,000 people in 2009 were killed or injured as the result of distracted driving accidents. 16% of fatal accidnts and 20% of injuries in accidents in 2009 involved distracted driving. In addition it has been shown that utilizing a cellphone while driving (either hands-free or hand-held) can slow reaction time as much as someone driving drunk. With such frightening statistics it is impossible to ignore the prevalence of distracted driving in our modern society.

    I wanted to see if distractions while driving, such as those involved in a cellphone conversation, could cause any recognizable patterns in driving movement; such as tracking alongside another car on the highway or swerving, and to see if there was any difference in how different types of cognitive processes effect a person while driving. IE does calculating the cost of the pizzas you are about to pick up distract you more than trying to remember where you left your movie tickets, or does music effect you while you are driving. 
    
    This was for multiple reasons: firstly to show people firsthand how they are effected by driving while distracted and hopefully raise awareness of this troubling issue, secondly to see if visual cues or recognizable patterns of distracted driving could be found to aid law enforcement or the common driver locate dangerous drivers on the road.

    To do this I developed a program in C# to create a driving analog, requiring a user to both turn left and right along with the road and change speed based on a speed limit and a speedometer while different distractions were implemented. These were in the form of audio files of 4 different types of questions, music, and the control (silence) that the subject was required to respond to verbally. This test outputted a row of data including position, speed, and error in both categories at a rate of 10 hz, or 10 times per second, for the entirety of the 6:40 test. This data was automatically outputted to an FTP location for collection and analysis. The program was put on a Google site along with instructions, results, and a download link to increase sample size and reach to subjects all over the country.

Independant Variable: Distractions on driver
Control Group: Baseline, no audible distractions on subject
Experimental group: Implemented distraction types: Math, Visualization, Categorization, Memory, Music.

Dependant Variable: Speed and position error of subject during each distraction

    In this I set out to find what types of distractions caused the most impairment on driving performance, and whether there was any recognizable trends or driving patterns of a distracted driver. After receiving over 160 tests I concluded with statistical affirmation (using ANOVA tests) that different distractions associated with different cognitive processes caused differing impairments on driving performance. Two types of distraction (visualization and categorization) caused statistically significant  impairment of roughly 30% over the baseline where no distactions were present. It was also concluded that music (instrumental classical music was used for this test) had no effect, with just over 3% difference over baseline, and Math and Memory questions showed an increased average error over the control of roughly 15%, yet not enough to be considered statistically significant.

To try the test yourself or learn more about what went into the test visit my Google site: [ https://sites.google.com/site/nathan2011scifair/ ]


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