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Archive for August 17th, 2009

How Aware Are We of Our Own Distraction?

One factor that promotes overconfidence in one’s ability to “safely” multitask while driving is the idea that we cannot often correctly monitor our own level of vigilance.

To wit, a study reported in the New Scientist notes:

A CAR’S judgement on the driver’s levels of alertness could be more reliable than the driver’s own perception of it.

So say Eike Schmidt of car manufacturer Daimler in Böblingen, Germany, and his team, after tests on volunteers during a 4-hour drive along the autobahn. To make the drive as boring as possible, the drivers were asked not to chat or listen to the radio.

Every 20 minutes, the team asked the volunteers how attentive they were feeling. They also tested the volunteers’ reaction times by asking them to push a button attached to their thumbs every time they heard a certain tone. Each driver’s heart rate and brainwave frequency, which are indicators of attentiveness, were also recorded during these tasks.

The team found that while all measures of alertness declined over the 4-hour period, in the final hour the drivers reported feeling more vigilant than the physiological tests suggested.

This relates to a point I tried to raise in Traffic — that drivers are not only distracted, but unaware of their level of distraction.

William Horrey and colleagues found a similar result in a study that looked at drivers on mobile devices on a closed track. As other studies have found, their were “performance decrements” while using a hand-held and hands-free device versus “baseline driving,” but what was interesting here is that subjects’ estimates of how distracted they were had little to do with the actual level of distraction:

[I]n some cases, the subjective measure of distraction was in the opposite direction of the actual distraction effect. That is, drivers that estimated the smallest (or no) distraction effects exhibited the largest ones. In general, a disconnect between performance and awareness was consistent across driving measure and phone type.

Interestingly, in this study, the researchers suggested it was not overconfidence per se, but a “failure of perception,” underpinning the disconnect. Just as a fatigued driver does not quite know the point at which his fatigue will become deadly, nor does the distracted driver know the exact tipping point moment where they will miss something they might have otherwise detected.

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Posted on Monday, August 17th, 2009 at 3:20 pm by: Tom Vanderbilt
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The Mysteries of Road Repair

Reader Steve wants to know:

Do you know why there is always a delay, sometimes of weeks, between the scarification of a road surface and the repaving? In my experience, this occurs regardless of whether the project involves a low volume city street or an interstate highway.

Any infrastructure types out there care to weigh in? Is it part of some carefully planned process, or just lack of coordination between the scarification guys and the paving guys?

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Posted on Monday, August 17th, 2009 at 7:24 am by: Tom Vanderbilt
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Traffic Safety Film of the Week

From the U.K.’s always provocative Think! series.

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Posted on Monday, August 17th, 2009 at 7:22 am by: Tom Vanderbilt
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Traffic Tom Vanderbilt

How We Drive is the companion blog to Tom Vanderbilt’s New York Times bestselling book, Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us), published by Alfred A. Knopf in the U.S. and Canada, Penguin in the U.K, and in languages other than English by a number of other fine publishers worldwide.

Please send tips, news, research papers, links, photos (bad road signs, outrageous bumper stickers, spectacularly awful acts of driving or parking or anything traffic-related), or ideas for my Slate.com Transport column to me at: info@howwedrive.com.

For publicity inquiries, please contact Kate Runde at Vintage: krunde@randomhouse.com.

For editorial inquiries, please contact Zoe Pagnamenta at The Zoe Pagnamenta Agency: zoe@zpagency.com.

For speaking engagement inquiries, please contact
Kim Thornton at the Random House Speakers Bureau: rhspeakers@randomhouse.com.

Order Traffic from:

Amazon | B&N | Borders
Random House | Powell’s

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U.S. Paperback UK Paperback
Traffic UK
Drive-on-the-left types can order the book from Amazon.co.uk.

For UK publicity enquiries please contact Rosie Glaisher at Penguin.

Upcoming Talks

April 9, 2008.
California Office of Traffic Safety Summit
San Francisco, CA.

May 19, 2009
University of Minnesota Center for Transportation Studies
Bloomington, MN

June 23, 2009
Driving Assessment 2009
Big Sky, Montana

June 26, 2009
PRI World Congress
Rotterdam, The Netherlands

June 27, 2009
Day of Architecture
Utrecht, The Netherlands

July 13, 2009
Association of Transportation Safety Information Professionals (ATSIP)
Phoenix, AZ.

August 12-14
Texas Department of Transportation “Save a Life Summit”
San Antonio, Texas

September 2, 2009
Governors Highway Safety Association Annual Meeting
Savannah, Georgia

September 11, 2009
Oregon Transportation Summit
Portland, Oregon

October 8
Honda R&D Americas
Raymond, Ohio

October 10-11
INFORMS Roundtable
San Diego, CA

October 21, 2009
California State University-San Bernardino, Leonard Transportation Center
San Bernardino, CA

November 5
Southern New England Planning Association Planning Conference
Uncasville, Connecticut

January 6
Texas Transportation Forum
Austin, TX

January 19
Yale University
(with Donald Shoup; details to come)

Monday, February 22
Yale University School of Architecture
Eero Saarinen Lecture

Friday, March 19
University of Delaware
Delaware Center for Transportation

April 5-7
University of Utah
Salt Lake City
McMurrin Lectureship

April 19
International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association (Organization Management Workshop)
Austin, Texas

Monday, April 26
Edmonton Traffic Safety Conference
Edmonton, Canada

Monday, June 7
Canadian Association of Road Safety Professionals
Niagara Falls, Ontario

Wednesday, July 6
Fondo de Prevención Vial
Bogotá, Colombia

Tuesday, August 31
Royal Automobile Club
Perth, Australia

Wednesday, September 1
Australasian Road Safety Conference
Canberra, Australia

Wednesday, September 22

Wisconsin Department of Transportation’s
Traffic Incident Management Enhancement Program
Statewide Conference
Wisconsin Dells, WI

Wednesday, October 20
Rutgers University
Center for Advanced Infrastructure and Transportation
Piscataway, NJ

Tuesday, March 8, 2011
Ontario Injury Prevention Resource Centre
Injury Prevention Forum
Toronto

Monday, May 2
Idaho Public Driver Education Conference
Boise, Idaho

Tuesday, June 2, 2011
California Association of Cities
Costa Mesa, California

Sunday, August 21, 2011
American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators
Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Attitudes: Iniciativa Social de Audi
Madrid, Spain

April 16, 2012
Institute for Sensible Transport Seminar
Gardens Theatre, QUT
Brisbane, Australia

April 17, 2012
Institute for Sensible Transport Seminar
Centennial Plaza, Sydney
Sydney, Australia

April 19, 2012
Institute for Sensible Transport Seminar
Melbourne Town Hall
Melbourne, Australia

January 30, 2013
University of Minnesota City Engineers Association Meeting
Minneapolis, MN

January 31, 2013
Metropolis and Mobile Life
School of Architecture, University of Toronto

February 22, 2013
ISL Engineering
Edmonton, Canada

March 1, 2013
Australian Road Summit
Melbourne, Australia

May 8, 2013
New York State Association of
Transportation Engineers
Rochester, NY

August 18, 2013
BoingBoing.com “Ingenuity” Conference
San Francisco, CA

September 26, 2013
TransComm 2013
(Meeting of American Association
of State Highway and Transportation
Officials’ Subcommittee on Transportation
Communications.
Grand Rapids MI

 

 

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