An evaluation of smartphone driver support systems for young drivers - acceptance, efficacy, and driver distraction
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Background: Smartphone Driver Support Systems (SDSSs) are novel smartphone applications designed to monitor, give feedback on, and improve driving behaviours. Young drivers (aged 18-24) are a priority market for SDSS providers as they are disproportionately represented in the Road Traffic Collision (RTC) fatality and injury statistics. Although studies examining the use of conceptually similar In-Vehicle Data Recorders (IVDRs) would support the assertion that SDSSs will have a similar road safety value, no empirical research has tested this to date. Aims: The primary aims of the current programme of research were to: a) investigate young driver acceptance of these new systems; b) determine if they can be effective in improving young driver behaviour; and, c) explore whether or not they may distract young drivers and present a RTC risk. Methodology: These aims were addressed over a series of studies that converge around three research themes: ‘technology acceptance’, ‘efficacy in improving driver behaviour’, and ‘potential for distraction’. Acceptance studies consisted of a systematic review of research examining the acceptability of in-vehicle monitoring for young drivers (Study 1, k = 6), and the testing of a novel model to elucidate the factors influencing young driver acceptance of SDSS technology (Study 2, n = 333). The efficacy studies commenced with a systematic review of research that tested the impact of monitoring on the driving performance of young people (Study 3, k = 8). As the experimental studies in this programme of research utilised a novel driving simulator, a simulator adaptation (Study 4a, n = 30) and validation study (Study 4b, n = 30) were also conducted at this stage. These were followed by an examination of the impact of driving with a monitoring SDSS on young driver speed (Study 5, n = 42). The effects of engaging with a SDSS that provides real-time feedback, a monitoring SDSS and financial incentive, and a SDSS providing combined real-time feedback and a financial incentive for use were then examined (Study 6, n = 56). Last, the potential for SDSSs to distract drivers was assessed by a study which measured performance on a Peripheral Detection Task (PDT) while driving with a SDSS providing real-time, visual feedback alerts (Study 7, n = 51). Findings: Overall, results indicated that young drivers rate SDSSs as acceptable for use, and that this acceptance is primarily influenced by perceptions of gains and social influence factors. In terms of efficacy, findings pointed to three conditions in particular under which driving performance improved: 1) when the SDSS provided monitoring alone; 2) when monitoring was offered in conjunction with a financial incentive, or; 3) when monitoring was combined with real-time feedback and a financial incentive. During the final study, which addressed distraction however, slower reaction times and missed stimuli on a PDT emerged under SDSS real-time feedback conditions. Conclusions: These findings suggest that SDSSs have potential value in mitigating young driver risk. However, any value offered by SDSSs in terms of reducing speeding and other forms of rule violations must be considered against the potential for systems that offer real-time feedback to lead to driver distraction. Implications: The findings of these studies have implications for SDSS design and functionality, promotional campaigns, and future research needs, such as longitudinal distraction Field Operational Tests (FOTs).
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