UMD professor's experiment uses PlayStation 3 to prevent distracted driving

By KBJR News 1

April 23, 2014 Updated Apr 24, 2014 at 7:48 AM CDT

Duluth, MN (NNCNOW.com) - A University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD) professor is hoping to keep people from using their phones behind the wheel by putting them in front of a video game.

Dr. Edward Downs turned a PlayStation 3 into a distracted driving simulator. He used it in an experiment, which tested the attitude of about 100 college students towards distracted driving.

Before and after their drive on the simulator, the students took a survey which asked them how likely they were to drive while distracted.

The participants were sent 10 text messages during the experiment, to which they read and responded. Downs says that's all it took for the students' attitudes to change.

"When we put them in the simulator, they're able to see on their own and come to their own conclusions that they're not as good at multitasking as they thought they were and how dangerous it can be," said Downs.

Holly Kostrzewski works for MnDOT's Toward Zero Deaths program and says she doesn't think most people realize how poor their driving is when they are distracted.

"People don't know and you don't want to put them in a situation where they have to learn and then they end up in a crash," Kostrzewski said, "but a simulated experience like this is really fascinating."

The experiment also measured drivers' reactions while talking on the phone.

The results of the study are currently under peer review.

Downs says the simulators will be at the state fair this year as part of the University of Minnesota's 'Driven to Discover' campaign.

They'll be collecting live data from about 300-400 people at the fair.

Jennifer Austin

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