There are an increasing number of motor-vehicle accidents due to distracted drivers not paying attention to their surroundings. The use of smart phones and tablets are also on the rise, which can contribute significantly to this problem. Drivers, bicyclists, and pedestrians tend to interact with these devices and become distracted, limiting their ability to see or hear approaching hazards. The purpose of this study was to determine whether vibrotactile cues are effective in improving hazard recognition and safety of distracted pedestrians. As vibrotactile alert systems, a helmet and suspenders were compared and tested on 27 college students and faculty from Texas A&M University in College Station, TX. Eight C-2 Tactors+ by Engineering Acoustics, Inc. were placed into the displays with four distinct locations (front, back, right, and left). The STISIM Drive(R) driving simulator M100 system was used to measure and evaluate response times and hit rates. Each participant walked on a treadmill while hazards were presented via the driving simulator. Twelve trials were performed by each participant at approximately three minutes each, for a total of 2 hours in one day.
Results showed that having no display present was significantly different than having a vibrotactile display present (p = .007), while suspenders display was not significantly different from the helmet display present. Repeated - measures (within - subjects) ANOVA models and post - hoc pairwise comparison tests showed that hit rates and response times had significant effects. Qualitative results showed that there were more participants who preferred having suspenders while walking as a pedestrian. Mixed - effects ordinal regression models showed that both displays also influenced the participants' ratings (relative to no display) of performance, effectiveness, accuracy, comfortableness, and mental effort in a significant way. The average hit rates increased and response times got faster when participants had a display present, as expected. These results show a positive outlook for the future involving the effective use of vibrotactile alert systems. Fatalities involving distracted drivers and pedestrians from collisions are prevented and eliminated with the presence of these displays.
- Benden, Mark Associate Professor and Head