HFDG: Driver Distraction: Implications for individuals with traumatic brain injuries

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Driver Distraction: Implications for individuals with traumatic brain injuries

David M. Neyens, MPH PhD

Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) are injuries associated with the transfer of energy from some external source to the brain. The goal of this research was to investigate the influence of driver distractions on individuals with TBI. A Bayesian approach was used to analyze the driving performance of TBI drivers as they performed three secondary tasks (CD-selecting task, a coin-sorting task, and a radio-tuning task) in an on-road study using an instrumented vehicle. Informative prior distributions increases the confidence in the effect estimates of a Bayesian model and were established for this study using data from a driving simulator study of non-TBI drivers performing the same three tasks. The results of the analysis demonstrate that TBI drivers (when compared to non-TBI drivers) exhibited worse driving performance as measured with standard deviation of speed and maximum lateral acceleration during the coin-sorting task when compared to the other two tasks. This suggests that the demands of this secondary task are more detrimental to TBI drivers when compared to non-TBI drivers. In general, TBI drivers spent more time and longer proportions glancing at the secondary task than the non-TBI drivers.

The outcome of this study provides some of the first results of the decrements of distraction on drivers who have experienced a TBI. However, there are clearly more demanding tasks such as text messaging, and use of smart phones that could not be examined in this on-road study but are important to investigate given the increase use of such technology. Additional research will investigate the effects of these additional tasks for other brain-related injuries (e.g., stroke) and whether the effect is moderated by severity, coma duration or medial treatment/rehabilitation process. Future research will also examine how the behavior of these different driver subpopulations may evolve negatively or positively over increased exposure.

David M. Neyens is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Industrial Engineering at Clemson University. Prior to coming to Clemson, he was a postdoctoral associate at the University of Washington in the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering. He received his PhD from the University of Iowa in Industrial Engineering in 2010. He also has a Master in Public Health from the University of Iowa (2008).

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