, Research Fellow, Mechanical Engineering
Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for teenagers. The primary contributors to this unacceptably high crash rate include speeding, seat belt non-compliance, alcohol involvement, and distractions. In an effort to mitigate this situation, a prototype teen driver support system (TDSS) was designed and developed. This computer-based system provides real-time feedback to teens regarding speed limit violations and also warns of upcoming speed zone changes. A unique feature of the system is that speed limit feedback is relative to the speed limit posted on the roadway on which the teen is driving. By informing teens of speeding behavior, it is hoped that this system will reduce teen crash rates. This project includes a description of the TDSS features and specifications for how the TDSS operates using Smart Phone technology. A small usability study was completed as part of the project where teen drivers (aged 18-19) drove with and without the system. Overall, the pilot study demonstrated that the TDSS could operate effectively within a vehicle driven by a teen. Warnings and messages were presented to the drivers and corresponding text messages were sent when drivers failed to alter their behavior in relation to a warning. The performance data trended in the direction expected, with the TDSS encouraging lower speeds and less speeding overall. The teen participants reported that very little mental effort was required to interact with the TDSS while driving, but they also reported the system increased their perceptions of stress while driving. The second phase of the study proposed that information should be presented in real-time via text messages to parents and also in a weekly report. A potential weekly report format is described. Finally, the project identified the issues associated with using TDSS as an additional tool to support Graduated Driver Licensing programs.