The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that 25 percent of the 6.3 million crashes reported each year involve some form of driver distraction.
Researchers at the Wayne State School of Medicine are using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) while trying to determine how much of a driver distraction it is to be talking on a cell phone, eating or fiddling with the radio.
An MRI allows them to scan the brain in real time, examining what parts of the brain are actually engaged and working during a safety situation. Research will examine the effect of a variety of external influences on driving, such as sleep deprivation, caffeine and alcohol.
The research also will observe various types of drivers, including different age groups, different experience levels and those who have been involved in accidents.
The research will be used to reduce the risk of driver distraction and improve vehicle technology and safety.