Driving simulator research has provided some mixed results including some misleading claims that driving using a mobile phone is as dangerous as drink driving.

Dr Tom Dingus, Director of the Virginia Tech’s Transportation Institute (VTTI) has said naturalistic driving studies, which use in car cameras to record drivers in actual driving situations, are a better way to assess real-world driving pressures as opposed to driving simulator studies.

The VTTI have said while “cognitively intense” tasks such as emotional phone conversations can have a measurable effect in the laboratory and simulator studies, the actual driving risks have been shown to be much lower in real-world driving conditions.

Dr Dingus has also commented on what he termed the “disconnect” between naturalistic and simulator research:

“It is important to keep in mind that a driving simulator is not actual driving. Driving simulators engage participants in tracking tasks in a laboratory. As such, researchers that conduct simulator studies must be cautious when suggesting that conclusions based on simulator studies are applicable to actual driving.

“With the introduction of naturalistic driving studies that record drivers (through continuous video and kinematic sensors) in actual driving situations, we now have a scientific method to study driver behaviour in real-world driving conditions in the presence of real-world daily pressures.

“As such, if the point of transportation safety research is to understand driver behaviour in the real-world (e.g., increase crash risk due to cell phone use), and when conflicting findings occur between naturalistic studies and simulator studies, findings from the real-world, and not the simulator-world, must be considered the gold standard.

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