The University of NSW has launched a landmark research project in collaboration with several academic institutions and government agencies to determine the naturalistic driving behaviour of Australians.
What is involved in the study?
The initiative, launched this year, is called the Naturalistic Driving Study (NDS).
The $4 million initiative involves fitting around 180 vehicles in NSW with data collection systems for a period of four months. The state-of-the-art equipment includes video cameras, a still camera, GPS, lane tracker, front radar and accelerometers.
Participants will receive two separate vouchers worth $250 for volunteering to be part of the study.
The research team expects to complete the project by 2018.
What are the objectives of the study?
The purpose of the NDS is to develop a deeper understanding of driver behaviour and the factors that come into play in the event of a collision.
Professor Raphael Grzebieta of the University of NSW says the study will help policy makers with strategic decisions.
"For the first time, we'll be able to watch hundreds of drivers, and see from their perspective what is happening in and around their vehicle and how this influences their decisions," says the professor.
Ultimately, he says, the cross-sectional project will help make roads safer.
"The aim of our research is to save lives and prevent serious injuries," he added.
According to the academic, another key aspect of the study is that it will reveal crucial insights about human factors such as distraction, inattention, speeding, aggression and tiredness.
Why is the study unique?
Japan used a similar study using a naturalistic driving data acquisition system to understand how human error contributes to road accidents. The project is unique in that this is the first time that Australia is hosting such an extensive investigation into driver behaviour.
"This is the first driving study of this magnitude and sophistication in Australia. It will provide an invaluable record of the behaviour of drivers, their cars and other road users in real world situations," says Professor Grzebieta.
The data collection systems will not alert drivers of the threat of an accident or intervene to prevent a collision. This is because the purpose of the project is to record data from crashes or near-misses to determine the nature of the behaviour that may have caused it.
University of NSW Vice-Chancellor Professor Ian Jacobs, who launched the NDS, says the project not only represents an exemplary partnership between federal and state governments, universities and industry, but it is also an cutting-edge approach to decreasing road fatality stats.
"It's about the near misses. And it is using really modern technology to collect a vast amount of data and then analyse that data to inform safety on our roads," he added.
Are you eligible to participate?
All NSW residents are eligible to participate if they meet the following criteria:
• Must have a valid, full, NSW or Victorian driver's licence.
• Be aged between 20 and 70 years.
• Own a registered vehicle or have written permission from the owner of the registered vehicle.
• Drive at least 5 days or 10 trips a week.
• Only drivers of sedans, coupes, hatchbacks, station wagons and four-wheel drives/sport utility vehicles (SUVs) are eligible.
• Vehicle makes and models from 2002 onwards are preferred.
In addition to saving lives, the research could also see a reduction in the number of claims resulting from accidents. This will also result in lower comprehensive and CTP green slip insurance premiums.