Forty teenage drivers from southeast Michigan will drive a fleet of specially equipped vehicles for 14 weeks beginning this summer as part of a study to test a suite of advanced vehicle-safety technologies.

The University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute will conduct the study, which is jointly sponsored by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and Honda R & D Americas.

Twelve specially equipped passenger cars will be used during the 18-month research project. Each car is equipped with an integrated crash-warning system that alerts drivers when they are at risk of colliding with the vehicle in front of them, colliding with an adjacent vehicle when changing lanes or merging, traveling too fast for an upcoming curve, or inadvertently drifting from their lane.

The advanced safety technologies were recently tested on passenger cars and commercial trucks during the five-year Integrated Vehicle Based Safety System program, conducted by UMTRI as part of a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Department of Transportation and industry partners. The program involved 108 drivers ranging in age from 20 to 70. Findings from the study show that the integrated safety system was widely accepted by drivers and prevented several crashes.

The current study expands upon the previous to examine the potential safety benefits for the highest risk drivers, teens. If effective, the technologies could improve the safety of teen drivers, according to UMTRI associate research scientist Jim Sayer, who leads the study.

“Teens are still learning to drive well after they begin driving without adult supervision.  By testing the effects of the crash-warning system on teen driving behavior, we hope to discover whether these types of systems are of the greatest potential safety benefit for novice drivers.  Furthermore, it may be the case that crash-warning systems serve as good, and less judgmental, training tools for novice drivers,” Sayer said.

The new UMTRI research project will compare the safety benefits afforded teen drivers with those of adult drivers of the same vehicles, and it will augment UMTRI’s already rich naturalistic driving database.

The Transportation Research Institute is committed to interdisciplinary research that will ultimately increase driving safety and further transportation systems knowledge. UMTRI’s research significantly impacts highway transportation policy and practice, in the United States and abroad.


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