Alternative Title: Can you hear me at the back?
Perhaps the best evidence of a full conference schedule is that I am currently writing this blog whilst sat in my office in Leeds, having returned from the USA this morning.
So, back to the first day of the Driving Assessment 2013 conference.
After dragging myself out of bed for the earliest-starting conference I have attended yet (7am breakfast for an 8am start), I was rewarded with a huge choice of food and drink (the picture doesn’t do it justice!).
The first keynote speaker, Adrian Lund (President of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety) talked about drivers’ use of Driver Assistance Systems (e.g. forward collision warnings, lane departure warnings, adaptive headlights).
His position means that he has access to insurance company data on how and why people crash, and therefore an insight which researchers often do not get. The key message was that the designers of systems which are supposed to help the driver should ensure that the desired effect is achieved when they are implemented in the real-world. A detail that caught my attention was that the introduction of ‘Right Turn On Red’ as a fuel-saving measure in the USA in the 1970s, actually increased pedestrian fatalities.
Later talks were grouped by theme: Driver behaviour and naturalistic studies (observation of a person’s everyday driving), driver coaching and training, and the measurement of driver distraction. The driver distraction session was particularly thought-provoking for me, given that it was the central theme in my PhD thesis. The debate about what the term actually means (it is important to agree on a definition of distraction to ensure that people are studying the same thing!) formed a large part of my first thesis chapter.
The full schedule of presentations can be seen here:
Two presentations that stood out for unconventional reasons were:
A presentation on drivers’ speeding behaviours (who speeds, when and how often) was delivered with a malfunctioning projector, such that each slide flashed up briefly and unpredictably. This actually kept the audience more alert to the content, as they had no idea how long they would be able to see it. So much so that I wondered if it was a sensible strategy for my presentation the following day!
A young masters student delivered an attention-grabbing presentation on sleep apnoea in drivers. The presentation was interesting, but also was delivered at such volume that I imagine my colleagues left behind in Leeds could provide an adequate summary of the material without needing to cross the Atlantic nor refer to this blog! A lovely chap though, I’d like to add.
There were other interesting presentations including:
- The apparent ineffectiveness of phone-based brain training apps that claim to improve your ability to quickly notice things around you. This was also a good example of presenting results of a study even with null or negative results.
- The encouraging impact of a scheme using the parents of new drivers to monitor their childs’ driving performance and provide feedback.
- A criticism of data collection methods used to record mobile phone usage in young drivers, and a suggestion that they have led inaccurate (and under-estimated) figures being reported.
The day concluded with the first of two poster sessions, a useful time for speaking one on one with colleagues, which is often not possible during a presentation.
The evening was set aside for preparing my presentation, however not without a brief trip to the grocery store (a few days in America and I forget the word ‘Supermarket’!). A couple of sights on route were:
An impressive tree-man:
And instructions on how to cross the road:
Then finally a stop at the Ben and Jerry’s ice cream parlour; for 15 minutes of deciding followed by 3 minutes of eating.
I’m perhaps a little too proud that such a large volume of ice cream did not pose even the slightest of challenges.
Did I subconsciously carve the letters ITS (Institute for Transport Studies) into my empty pot??
Fuelled by ice cream, I worked on my presentation until 1am. Unfortunately, with work still to do, a 5am start on Wednesday morning was on the cards!