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Is There a Correlation Between Driver Stress and Collisions?

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December 22, 2015

Given the frequency of law enforcement collisions that occur during emergency operations, it may be safe to say that stress plays a role in a driver’s ability to make good decisions and manage their motor skills when the lights and siren are activated. The basic academy vehicle operations test categorizes stress tolerance into vocal, body posture, visual, breathing, responsiveness, assertiveness and physiological expressions. A recruit can fail emergency vehicle operations if they are unable to regulate their stress and demonstrate the required skill sets of emergency driving during the testing phase.

Despite the training and testing received in the academy, vehicle accidents during emergency driving continue to occur. Solo vehicle accidents in which the driver loses control of the vehicle and leaves the roadway may be highly attributable to driver stress. What if technology could predict when these types of collisions were most likely to occur, and provide mitigating intervention?

The Texas A & M Transportation Institute (TTI) is currently researching whether a crash can be detected ahead of time, based on the stress levels of the driver and other factors. Using driving simulators, researchers are measuring heart rates, perspiration, and thermal changes of the drivers to evaluate stress levels and driver performance, as well as vehicle based errors.  If the likelihood of a crash can be predicted ahead of time, then safety counter measures consisting of timely on-board notifications and induced vehicle controls could reduce the number of collisions.

While the current research is aimed at the driving public, outcomes from the research could potentially have positive applications and impacts on law enforcement driving, especially under stressful driving conditions. Read more about Driver Stress Detection May Result in Safer Roadways from the TTI Center for Transportation Safety.


Wear your seatbelt, watch your speed, and practice SAFE driving!

The SAFE Driving Campaign is a POST initiative focused on reducing fatal and serious injury law enforcement traffic collisions nationwide.  For further information regarding the SAFE Driving Campaign, visit the SAFE Driving Campaign on the POST Website or contact:

Janna Munk, POST Senior Consultant
Training Program Services Bureau
(916) 227-0473

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