Teen Driver NDS

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Teen Driver NDS
General information
Type: Naturalistic driving study
Tested system/service:
Countries: USA ? test users
? partners ? vehicles
Active from 2011 to ?
Project website
Tom Dingus
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This study, sponsored by the National Institutes of Health, is an 18-month study to better understand the issues associated with newly licensed teenage drivers who are at a much higher crash risk when compared to other drivers.

Teenage drivers, particularly during the first few months of independent driving, are at much higher crash risk when compared to other drivers. This period of elevated risk is probably due to some combinations of inexperience and risk taking, but there is a major gap in our knowledge of the relative contribution and specific factors associated with this problem.

The sponsors of this research include the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) and the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA). The purposes of this research are to determine among novice young drivers (1) the effects of driving experience on novice teen driving performance; and (2) the extent of intra-individual variability in driving performance under specific driving conditions, such as at night and with teen passengers.

There are two parts to the research effort: Experiment 1 is a test-track study using the Smart Road at VTTI to assess change over time in specific driver performance behaviors. Experiment 2 is a naturalistic instrumented vehicle study to observe and record data on driver behavior over time in a naturalistic driving setting. The same teenage and adult (parent) drivers are recruited to participate in both parts of the study. Each participant will answer a series of questionnaires prior to and during participation, and the teenage participants will also undergo a Cortisol response analysis.

Experiment 1: Smart Road Study

This is a test-track study assessing on-road driving performance of recruited teenagers and parents in instrumented vehicles. Teenagers and parents will be tested twice; at 0 months and at 12 months. The first (0 month) testing takes place within three weeks of teenage licensure. An advantage of this study is the ability to manipulate task difficulty via use of the test-track environment and the ability to follow a group of novice drivers for a period of 18 months after licensure.

Experiment 2: Naturalistic Driving Study

This is a prospective cohort study where teenage driving will be recorded continuously during the first 18 months after they receive their license. However, for purposes of this study, only segments related to crash or near-crash events or for brief periods designed to characterize baseline driving performance will be analyzed. Half of the teens are expected to be the drivers of their own vehicle while the other half will regularly share a family vehicle with an adult family member (at least for a number of months after licensure). A naturalistic method is used, in which the participants' own vehicles will be instrumented with cameras, sensors, and radar. The participants are instructed to drive the vehicles as they normally would throughout the 18 months. Data is downloaded regularly from the vehicles without requiring any special efforts from the participants.

Details of Field Operational Test

Start date and duration of FOT execution

There is a test track study and a naturalistic driving study that will be both conducted during 18 months.

Geographical Coverage

United States

Link with other related Field Operational Tests


The results from the Naturalistic Driving study will provide transportation researchers with a more complete understanding of how teens learn to drive during the first 18 months of independent driving. Actual exposure to various risk factors as well as the frequency and duration of this exposure will be calculated. This type of real-world data has heretofore been non-existent. This study will mark the first time that exposure to various risk factors can be directly compared to involvement in crashes and near-crashes, which will provide a better understanding of the true magnitude of these risk factors. Understanding of which risk factors increase crash and near-crash involvement can then be used to improve driver's education training to save teen lives. This information can also help provide information to legislators who are working on Graduated Driver Licensing Laws, which may lead to a true reduction in teen fatalities.


Lessons learned

Main events


Summary, type of funding and budget

National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) and the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration(NHTSA)

Cooperation partners and contact persons

  • Public Authorities:
  • Industry
    • Vehicle Manufacturer:
    • Supplier:
  • Users:
  • Universities:
  • Research Institutes:
  • Others (specify):

Main Contact person: Tom Dingus, Ph.D., Sheila (Charlie) Klauer

Applications and equipment

Applications tested


The Naturalistic Driving Study will be conducted with the young drivers own vehilces or their parentss vehicles.

Equipment carried by test users


Test equipment

Sensors including radars and accelerometers. Multi-camera video recording system (30 Hz).


Pre-simulation / Piloting of the FOT

Method for the baseline

Techniques for measurement and data collection

Data Acquisition System for the Naturalistic Driving Study: The data acquisition system (DAS) used for this study compiles data from the vehicle network as well as from sensors added for this particular study, such as radar and accelerometers. The general design characteristics for the DAS include many features. The first feature is being compatible with the vehicle (e.g., power obtained from vehicle battery and data from in-vehicle network). The DAS also needs to be unobtrusive and non-invasive, which includes:

  • Not distracting
  • Not limiting driver visibility
  • Not permanently modifying the vehicle
  • Requiring minimal space (e.g., for data storage unit)
  • Automatically starting-up, shutting-down, and continuously operating
  • Not requiring subject tasks for operating or data downloading
  • Reliable performance in the often-harsh operational environment of driving, minimal data loss, and automatic detection of failures is another feature for the DAS.

The DAS also has a continuous multi-camera video recording system (30 Hz) to capture the driver's face, over-the-shoulder, wide angle rearward, and forward scenes; a passenger camera provides a snapshot of the vehicle's cabin (the camera has a filter that allows researchers to determine the presence of a passenger but conceals the passenger's identity). A final characteristic of DAS is its ruggedness and crash survivability. The main unit is mounted in the trunk under the "package shelf" using existing bolt locations. The vehicle network box is located under the front dashboard. The incident box is mounted above the rearview mirror. Wiring is run though the normal wire chases on a vehicle to all the various network nodes, as well as to the cameras. The cameras are mounted unobtrusively in order to facilitate naturalistic driving behavior.

Recruitment goals and methods

Methods for the liaison with the drivers during the FOT execution

Methods for data analysis, evaluation, synthesis and conclusions

Sources of information