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Release: Aug. 10, 2001

Aug. 14-17 conference examines human factors in driving

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Cell phone-induced driver distraction is only one of the topics to be discussed August 14-17 during the first International Driving Symposium on Human Factors in Driving Assessment, Training and Vehicle Design at Snowmass Village at Aspen, Colo.

Organized by the Human Factors Research Program at the UI Public Policy Center and supported by the University of Iowa Colleges of Engineering, Medicine, Public Health, as well as the National Advanced Driving Simulator (NADS) and the Public Policy Center, the symposium is designed as an interdisciplinary forum. Some 150 experts from 16 countries will exchange research findings on subjects ranging from driver attention and distraction to medical factors in driving and in-vehicle systems. More than 80 papers and posters will be presented during the four-day meeting.

Daniel V. McGehee, one of the symposium organizers and director of the Human Factors Research Program at the UI Public Policy Center, said that the UI's unique interdisciplinary strength in driving and human factors helped inspire the meeting. He added that the University of Iowa is a natural symposium sponsor because of the broad range of driving and human factors researchers on campus. Researchers in engineering, medicine, public health, computer science, psychology and public policy frequently collaborate on driver safety research. In addition, the UI is the home of the National Advanced Driving Simulator, designed to be the most advanced ground vehicle simulator in the world when it opens later this year.

"This University of Iowa-organized event highlights our world-class neuroergonomics programs at UI", said Matthew Rizzo, professor of neurology and industrial engineering, and another one of the symposium organizers. "The three outstanding student paper awards and travel grants underscore the importance of students to our mission. The conference will produce new international research and ideas on cognition, driving behavior and safety interventions in healthy and medically impaired drivers," said Rizzo.

Even if the symposium were limited to the study of such phenomena as reaching to tune the radio or using a cell phone, it would still be an important forum on driver safety because the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that about 25 percent of all car crashes are caused by driver distraction. McGehee and John Lee, a human factors expert and associate professor of industrial engineering in the UI College of Engineering, are two of 15 national experts who last year participated in a NHTSA Internet conference on driver distraction. Lee is also one of the organizers of this conference.

UI presenters and their topics include: "Distraction Potential of Speech-Based Driver Interfaces," Lee and industrial engineering undergraduate assistants Kristi Schmidt and Toby Braul; "Visual Attention and Roadway Landmark Identification in At-Risk Older Drivers," neurology research assistant Amy Crowe, industrial engineering graduate student Tara Smyser, Public Policy Center Human Factors Research Program research scientist Mireille Raby, biostatistics graduate student Kirk Bateman and Rizzo; "Examination of Older Driver Steering Adaptation on a High-Performance Driving Simulator," McGehee, Lee, Rizzo and Bateman; "An Analysis of Driving Performance Measures Used to Assess the Effects of Medications on Drowsiness, Sedation and Driving Impairment," NADS researcher Ginger Watson, internal medicine professor John M. Weiler, statistics professor George G. Woodworth, NADS researcher Julie Qidwai and internal medicine research assistant Susan Quinn; and "Effects of Speed of Visual Processing Training upon Non-Visual Attention in 'At-Risk' Older Drivers," neurology research assistant Nicole Skaar, Rizzo, Bateman and neurology assistant professor Steven Anderson.

In addition to the University of Iowa, principal sponsors include the Federal Highway Administration, The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, Ford Motor Company and NHTSA. Further information on the symposium may be found at: