Prof David Strayer from the Cognition and Neural Science, Department of Psychology at the University of Utah in the US visited rCITI on Friday 26 April and presented a seminar on driver distraction. Driver distraction is increasingly recognized as a significant source of injuries and fatalities on the roadway.

Driver distraction can arise from visual/manual interference, for example when a driver takes his or her eyes off the road to interact with a device. Impairments also stem from cognitive sources of distraction when attention is diverted from safely operating the vehicle.

Concern over distracted driving is growing as more and morewireless devices are being integrated into the vehicle. Working with the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, in the United States, we developed, validated, and applied a metric of distraction associated with the diversion of attention from driving.

Our studies show that the distraction potential of vehicle technology can be reliably measured, that cognitive workload systematically varies as a function of the secondary task performed by the driver in the vehicle, and that many activities, particularly complex multimodal interactions in the vehicle, are associated with surprisingly high levels of mental workload. Using the new technology in the vehicle may have unintended consequences that adversely affect traffic safety.

Prof Strayer received his Ph.D. from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1989 and worked at GTE laboratories before joining the faculty at the University of Utah.  Prof. Strayer’s research examines attention and multitasking in real-world contexts such as driving an automobile.  He has published over 175 scholarly articles in this area and for the last 15 years has focused on understanding driver distraction stemming from multimodal interactions in the vehicle.