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MIT researches distracted driving and how to keep drivers safe

In the United States, approximately 40,000 people were killed while traveling on the roads last year. Distracted driving in Ohio was the reason for many of those motor vehicle accident deaths. While the distractions are varied, ranging from eating to using a cell phone, it is unclear exactly how people are affected by these distractions. A recent study by MIT researchers focuses on how drivers act while driving and the best ways of keeping them safe.

MIT's Age Lab and Touchstone Evaluations, funded by major vehicle and technology companies, found an algorithm called "AttenD" to determine human "attentional awareness" and can use the numbers to figure out how to help drivers. Researchers put cameras and sensors in 2,600 vehicles in 2012, and collected data regarding driver behavior for one year. They took this information and looked at driver behaviors up to 20 seconds before the accident.

The study showed that if the glances at your texts are longer than the glances at the roadway in front of you, you may lose track of your location in space. The algorithm could calculate when a crash would happen based on driver behaviors 20 seconds before.

The research collected may be used to come up with anti-distraction products to help drivers that are more at risk for accidents, such as teens or elderly people. Major car companies are also coming up with partially-automated features to help take away the human element of driving. For now however, drivers will continue to be educated on the dangers of distracted driving and law enforcement will continue to crack down on distractions behind the wheel.

Source: Wired, "To End Distracted Driving MIT Figures Out How People Really Drive," Aarian Marshall, July 5, 2017

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