Published: Oct. 14, 2019

MSU expert available to discuss Teen Driver Safety Week

Contact(s): Layne Cameron Media Communications office: (517) 353-8819 cell: (765) 748-4827, Peter Savolainen Civil and Environmental Engineering office: (517) 432-1825

National Teen Driver Safety Week is coming up, Oct. 20-26, and Michigan State University’s Peter Savolainen is available to discuss his research on distracted drivers.

Savolainen, MSU Foundation Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, examines the fundamental nature of road user behavior, particularly how traffic safety and operations are influenced by behavior in consideration of roadway and traffic characteristics.

Approximately 60% of all car trips involved engagement in some distracting behavior. This included a wide range of tasks, classified into more than 60 categories, which included cell phone use, eating/drinking, interacting with passengers, reaching for items in the vehicle and looking at objects external to the vehicle, among others, according to Savolainen.

“Cell phone use continues to be the most discussed distraction concern at the national level, and rates are consistently highest among the younger age groups, generally declining with age,” he said. “Interestingly, use rates are not quite as high among the youngest age group, which is partially reflective of the context under which these individuals drive.

“Many of these are teenagers on graduated licenses. One troubling aspect here is that as these younger drivers age, it is possible that the overall rate of cell phone-related distractions increases significantly over time,” Savolainen added.

Savolainen’s findings are based on the second Strategic Highway Research Program Naturalistic Driving Study, a collection of 5.5 million trips, 1,549 crashes and 2,705 near-crash events. All study vehicles were equipped with a series of sensors, cameras and other data collection devices, resulting in more than four petabytes of information related to these trips, according to Savolainen.