Considerations for the development of a driver distraction safety rating system for new vehicles
ACRS, DOI:10.33492/JRS-D-19-00243, https://doi.org/10.33492/JRS-D-19-00243
Submission Date: May 1, 2020 Journal
Suggested Citation: Imberger, K., Poulter, C., Regan, M.A., Cunningham, M.L. and Paine, M. (2020). “Considerations for the development of a driver distraction safety rating system for new vehicles”. Journal of Road Safety, 31(2), 23-34. https://doi.org/10.33492/JRS-D-19-00243
Drivers engage in a wide range of non-driving related tasks while driving that have potential to distract to them and compromise their safety. These include interactions with infotainment systems built into the vehicle by vehicle manufacturers. These systems enable the performance of communication, entertainment, navigation and internet browsing tasks. Performing these tasks can degrade driving performance and increase crash risk. Not all infotainment technologies in new vehicles are equal in terms of their potential to distract. This paper documents the findings of a study commissioned by the Victorian Department of Transport to determine the feasibility of developing a test protocol for rating the distraction potential of new vehicles entering the Australian market. A literature review, consultation with expert international researchers and industry representatives, and workshops, were conducted in order to determine those elements of the HMI design of infotainment systems that should be assessed, identify suitable candidate test methods for assessing the visual and cognitive load imposed on drivers when performing infotainment tasks, and derive options for a distraction rating system. In addition, safety/rating assessment program reviews and a cost-benefit analysis of introducing a distraction rating system were undertaken. Eight potential distraction test methods were discerned from the literature and consultation. It was concluded that the most suitable test protocol for a distraction rating system involves the use of an HMI design checklist in combination with measurement of the visual and cognitive load imposed on drivers when performing specific infotainment tasks, using the VOT and DRT, respectively. Eight options for introducing a distraction safety rating as a consumer or NCAP distraction rating are presented. Each option builds upon the previous, with the first option being the development of voluntary guidelines (where vehicle manufacturers work to these guidelines on a voluntary basis) to option eight, where NCAPs incorporate a distraction rating in the overall vehicle safety rating. The benefits of introducing a highly effective (best case) distraction rating system are estimated to result in a road crash saving of approximately AU$28 per ‘improved/low distraction’ vehicle per year.