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Monday, 23 November 2009 19:39

Math tackles the rear-end collision

According to U.S. researchers at Georgia Institute of Technology, rear-end collisions can be avoided by a simple algorithm inserted into your car’s computer that tells a driver that the car in front is going slower than they are.

According to the National Safety Council (NSC), more than 2.5 million rear-end collisions occur in the United States each year; that’s about 6,850 each day.

Such a statistic makes rear-end collisions the most common car accident in the United States.

And, what is especially dangerous about rear-end collisions is the resulting injury to the neck, what is called a “whiplash” injury.

In any single year, about one in five people (around 20%) involved in rear-end collisions experience whiplash, according to the NSC.

In addition, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) states that the cost of treating neck and back injuries from rear-end collisions is estimated at about $8.5 million each year.

Therefore, engineering psychologists from Georgia Tech decided to study the interaction of the leading driver and the trailing driver in rear-end collisions.

They found that the trailing driver cannot properly gauge the seriousness of the situation when the leading driver is going slower than they are.

Page two continues.

In fact, according to the May 1, 2008 ScienceDaily.com article Avoiding Rear-end Collisions: Human Factors Psychologists Study How To Avoid Rear-end Collisions, the researchers “… found that drivers generally aren't able to detect when the car in front of them is going slower than they are, unless the difference in speed is at least eight to ten miles an hour.”

From this analysis, these scientists developed an “early warning system” algorithm based on the rear-end collision scenario and the braking behaviors of drivers. The resulting algorithm helps to minimize the chances of being in such an accident.

A mathematical algorithm is a method for solving a problem by using a series of instructions from an initial state (in this case, a point of time before the rear-end collision has occurred) to a final state (a point of time after the rear-end collision has occurred but, based on the algorithm, has instead been avoided).

Nicholas Kelling, a graduate student at Georgia Tech, and Gregory M. Corso, an associate professor of psychology at Georgia Tech, were involved in the study.

Dr. Corso states, “Well, if people can't detect that the car in front of them is going slower, you're going to run into it.”

Corso adds that their new algorithm, which could be installed into your car’s existing computer system, could be used to create an early warning system for rear-end collisions.

He states that it “… incorporate[s] your driving style and your braking behavior and [it] learn[s] basically how you stop the car and modify its behavior to mimic your behavior.”

Page three concludes.

And Kelling adds, “[W]e could put it into a warning system to tell people that the car in front of them is not going as fast as they are, and either stop the car or slow up,"

Additional information on their study can be found on the American Institute of Physics (Human Factors and Ergonomics Society) website “Avoiding Rear-end Collisions: Human Factors Psychologists Study How to Avoid Rear-End Collisions.”

In the meantime, rear-end collisions could be minimized by keeping a safe distance behind the vehicle in front of your vehicle.

Learn more about driving safely in the article by RoadTrip America called “Drive Safe with Uncle Bob: 70 Rules of Defensive Driving by Robert Schaller.”

The article begins: “It's not something we happy-go-lucky roadtrippers like to dwell upon, but about 50,000 people die each year in collisions on the roadways of the United States. By most estimates, over twenty-two million are injured."

"The costs associated with such collisions are staggering -- often quoted at more than $80 billion. This carnage is unnecessary since nearly all collisions are preventable. How?"

"Glad you asked! RoadTrip America's contributing expert Robert Schaller has the answers. In this resource, he shares wisdom gained from nearly fifteen years of teaching defensive driving and traffic law in his home state of Arizona.


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