At any moment, drivers can become inattentive behind the wheel. It’s not just phones and navigation systems that pose a risk. Food and drink, billboards, music and conversations with passengers can all distract.
Distracted driving makes a crash more likely, especially, in highway work zones, according to a new study.
First study of its kind
Researchers at the University of Missouri looked at the first-hand accounts of more than 3,000 drivers who initiated a crash, examining how these drivers interacted with their car and the road prior to the crash. This is the first study that examined the relationship between distracted driving and highway work zones.
Researchers calculated that in highway work zones, inattentive drivers are 29 times more likely to crash or be in a near-crash. This data came from the Transportation Research Board’s second Strategic Highway Research Program.
“What’s unique about our research project is that we used naturalistic driving study data that provides information about how driver, vehicle, roadway and environmental factors contribute to a crash,” according to a university engineering professor who led the study. “In other words, we reconstructed a driver’s actions and the surrounding environment prior to the crash from a firsthand account.”
Prior to the study, researchers knew that narrow lanes in work zones are less safe than wider lanes. They also knew speeding in work zones is correlated with injury severity. “With this unique data set, it also allows us to see the responsibility the driver has in increasing work zone safety,” the study said.
How findings could be used
The study’s findings could be helpful to automakers and organizations that are trying to improve driver safety.