Drivers wanted for highway safety study

August 26, 2011 Updated Aug 26, 2011 at 7:20 AM EDT

By WKBW News
By Business First - by Dave Bertola

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August 26, 2011 Updated Aug 26, 2011 at 7:20 AM EDT

Calling all cars, and their drivers: Cheektowaga-based research company CUBRC is conducting a study directed at improving highway safety, and 350 motorists are needed.

The Naturalistic Driving Study, which pays participants $500 a year, will look at how people normally drive by installing cameras and sensors into participants' own vehicles. It will help researchers gain a deeper understanding of the interaction between the driver and the vehicle, and the driver and the roadway. Data will be used for safety improvements in road design, cars and driver training programs.

"The intent is to collect information that will help make safer cars and reduce accidents," said Alan Blatt, director for CUBRC's center for transportation injury research.

A radar unit mounted near the front license plate of a demo car, he explained, will measure distance between the car and the vehicle ahead of it. Four tiny cameras mounted to the windshield just behind the rear view mirror provide a driver's view, and watch out the window to the driver's left. The other two are positioned to capture the driver's eyes and hands.

"We'll know if a driver is talking or texting on a phone," Blatt said.

Data is collected in a hard drive, which is mounted inside the trunk.

The project is being paid for with federal funds, which flow through the National Academies of Sciences, described on its website as a society of scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research, dedicated to furthering science and technology and to their use for the general welfare.

The study is the country's largest research effort directed at improving highway safety in the U.S.

Erie County is one of six locations across the U.S. where the study is being conducted. CUBRC is the organizer for Western New York and a Tampa, Fla.-area study, and is receiving more than $7 million in research funding for the projects. The other sites are Bloomington, Ind., Durham, N.C., Seattle, and State College, Pa..

CUBRC is recruiting approximately 500 Erie County residents to participate. Non-obtrusive cameras and sensors will be mounted within participants' vehicles to observe drivers' interactions with traffic conditions and roadway design. Drivers who are selected may participate in the study for one or two years.

Blatt said around 150 drivers are already taking part in the study. They would like to recruit another 350 by year's end.

For more information about the study or to inquire about participating, visit www.drivingstudy.org.

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