Distracted Driving: It’s not always a choice.

UTC Project Information

The proposed research seeks to identify the influence of roadway complexity on the performance of attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD) afflicted drivers. This subpopulation of drivers, when not medicated, does not appear to be able to eliminate being distracted. However, the influence of medication on these drivers, relative to non-ADHD drivers and non-medicated ADHD drivers is not well known.

One of the most dangerous locations for these drivers is work zones along freeways. Equipment, signage, and other items within the work zone contribute to visually complexity and as such may result in an increase in the frequency of driver distraction. Because non-medicated ADHD drivers are more distractible than their non-ADHD counterparts, we would expect to observe an increase in unsafe driving behaviors for these non-medicated ADHD drivers relative to non-ADHD drivers within these environments. How well medicated ADHD drivers respond to these visually complex roadway environments is not currently known.

To address these questions we will test both ADHD and non-ADHD drivers using a fixed base driving simulator. These two groups of participants (ADHD and non-ADHD individuals) will be required to “drive” a variety of roadway routes that vary in visual scene complexity. The ADHD participants will “drive” the routes both when they are normally medicated and when, by their physician’s direction, they are non-medicated. The total number of routes driven by both groups will be equal. We are anticipating a sample of 20 ADHD and 20 non-ADHD college age participants. No driving performance differences between the non-ADHD and the medicated group of participants are expected. We do expect to see an interaction between visual scene complexity and non-medicated ADHD and non-ADHD participants such that, as visual scene complexity increases, the non-medicated ADHD participants should be more distracted than the non-ADHD participants. At low levels of visual scene complexity we expect no performance differences between the two groups.

Once we are able to identify the influence of roadway complexity on distracted driving for both ADHD and non-ADHD participants, it should be possible to develop technologies to re-attract drivers. These distracted driving results will be disseminated to schools, driving schools, and physicians as well as the participants in the study. A web site detailing the results of distracted driving from this study and, when available, from other studies will be developed. The dissemination of the results to schools and other interested parties is in keeping with STRIDE’s core mission.

Return to Current Projects