Many factors are at work in attempts to make school-zones safe. Signs and beacons warn drivers that students are moving about in the area. Speed limits are reduced to help drivers be better able to stay alert and react safely and appropriately. There are apps now, like the Travel Safely App, which can push alerts to your phone when you are speeding in a school zone.
With funding from the Florida Department of Transportation, researchers with the UFTI decided to look at how apps like this impact safety and travel behavior. Traditionally safety has been measured by looking at crash data for an area. For this project, I-STREET Initiative – Evaluation of Intelligent School Zone Beacon and Vehicle-Cyclist Detection and Warning System, researchers wanted to be more proactive and not wait for accidents to happen.
Having access to the I-STREET real-world testbed – a collaboration between the Florida Department of Transportation, the City of Gainesville, and the University of Florida Transportation Institute – allows researchers to operate within a fully-functioning area of the city. Using eye tracking in the field is a new and exciting area of research. The eye tracking, coupled with GPS data, allowed researchers to gather information on how fast drivers were going and where they were looking while they drove.
For this project researchers looked at how the app impacts safety and travel behavior. Some of the questions they hope to be able to answer are: is the app getting people to slow down? Does the app draw people’s attention to the flashing school zone beacons or to their phones?
Researchers have finished gathering data for this project and are moving on to analysis. The results of this project should be available in the spring of 2020.
Dr. Eakta Jain from the UF Department of Computer and Information Science and Engineering is the lead principal investigator on this project along with Dr. Siva Srinivasan from the UF Department of Civil Engineering.