About the research
The topic of driver distraction has attracted considerable attention from policy makers and the public in recent years. Much of the public discussion focuses on texting and the use of cellular phones—paralleled by a considerable amount of technical literature investigating user interface designs aimed at mitigating distraction from in-vehicle devices. The main focus of BTS-09, however, lies outside the vehicle—specifically the influence of roadway and roadside infrastructure on distraction. With the exception of billboards and general urban clutter, very few of these outside-the-vehicle distractions (OVDs) have been researched in the past. As a result, the interaction between the built environment and driver distraction is not well understood, and this project provides an opportunity for major advances.
The BTS-09 project is very timely in light of the recent endorsement of the Safe System Approach by the National Safety Council and the Transportation Research Board’s (TRB’s) Committee on Transportation Safety Management. The Safe System Approach focuses on the continuous, dynamic interaction of vehicles, road users, traffic speeds, and the roadway environment. It emphasizes that all four of these system elements need to be robust, so that a failure of any single element does not result in the death or serious injury of a road user. In a sense, the BTS-09 project represents an in-depth look at interactions between road user behavior and the roadway/roadside environment, grounded in the goal of preventing the built environment from triggering OVD casualties.