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Driver strategies for engaging in distracting tasks using in-vehicle technologies
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    This project investigated the decision process involved in a driver’s willingness to engage in various technology-related and non-technology tasks. Previous research focused on how well drivers are able to drive while engaged in potentially distracting activities but little work has considered how drivers decide when to engage in in-vehicle activities. The project included focus groups and an on-road study, both employing participants who used in-vehicle technologies, from four age groups: teen (16-18), young (18-24), middle (25-59), and older (60+). For the on-road study, participants drove their own vehicles over a specified route and at specified points they rated their willingness to engage in some specific task at that time and place. Eighty-one different situations (combination of in-vehicle task and driving circumstances) were included. Further information was collected in the take-home booklet completed after the on-road session. Driver willingness to engage in various in-vehicle tasks was related to the technology type, specific task attributes, driving conditions, personal motivations, age, driving style, and decision style. Ratings of willingness and of risk were very highly correlated. Although reported willingness varied substantially with the task it was rather insensitive to immediate roadway characteristics and participants showed relatively little concern for impending (up-road) conditions. Task-related motivations, rather than driving-related considerations, appeared to be dominant decision factors. Participants did not attribute particular risk to basic cell phone tasks (dialing, answering, conversing). These phone tasks were rated roughly comparable to eating something neat or drinking something and were rated less risky than eating something messy or dealing with children in the vehicle. A matrix mapped 36 specific project findings to potential countermeasure approaches, including public education; driver or device user training; user interface design; needs for warnings and information; criteria for function lock-outs; and driver assist system criteria. Some particular countermeasure strategy was suggested for consideration in more than 200 cells in this matrix, so that the findings of the study may prove heuristically fruitful in generating approaches to dealing with driver distraction.

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