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Effects of an integrated collision warning system on teenage driver behavior

Jermakian, Jessica S.; Bao, Shan; Buonarosa, Mary Lynn; Sayer, James R.; Farmer, Charles M.
Journal of Safety Research
March 2017

Introduction: Crash warning systems have been shown to provide safety benefits, but no studies have examined how teenagers respond. This study sought to find out whether young, inexperienced drivers change behavior in response to warnings.
Methods: Forty 16–17-year-olds drove an instrumented vehicle equipped with a system that warned for lane departures and potential rear-end and lane change/merge crashes. Participants were randomly assigned to experimental or control groups, and their driving was monitored for 14 weeks during 2011–12. For the experimental group, this included a treatment period, when crash alerts were received by drivers, and baseline and post-treatment periods, when warnings were recorded but not received. The control group never received warnings. Data were analyzed to determine whether warnings were associated with changes in driving behavior.
Results: A total of 15,039 trips were analyzed. Lane drifts accounted for 73% of warnings. Forward collision warning rates doubled for all drivers during the treatment period and continued at an increased rate post-treatment. This was likely a result of the fact that, as time went on, all drivers spent more time following vehicles at close distances. Receiving alerts was associated with effects on following and lane-changing behavior, including more time spent following at close distances (17%), fewer lateral drifts (37%) and fewer unsignaled lane changes (80%). Receiving warnings wasn't associated with an increased likelihood of engaging in secondary tasks.
Conclusions: Warning systems may result in improved lane-keeping and turn-signal behaviors by novice drivers, but there is some indication they may result in more close-following behaviors. Practical applications: There is some evidence that lane departure warning may improve turn-signal use for young drivers. While there is no evidence of safety benefits from the other types of warnings, there is some evidence of an increase in close following behavior but no increase in secondary tasks due to the presence of those capabilities.