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University of Florida Study Shows TravelSafely Connected Vehicle Smartphone App Can Improve Safety in School Zones and for Cyclists

Drivers slowed down in active school safety zones and took notice of cyclists when alerted by app

GAINESVILLE, FL (October 27, 2021) – A study by researchers at the University of Florida showed that alerts from a connected vehicle smartphone app caused drivers to reduce their speed in active school zones and increased the visibility of cyclists sharing the road. The study was sponsored by the Florida Department of Transportation’s Research Center.

“Overall, the experimental study suggests that the availability of an app decreases the probability of speeding in school zones,” the study concluded. “In the case of the bicyclist, the results showed a significant increase (in) the probability of seeing the cyclist with the availability of the app when the bicyclist was not expected.”

The study evaluated driver compliance along a 5.7-mile circuit with five active school zone flashing beacons. The research team also staged bicyclists along the route. Trajectory and eye tracking data was collected from 50 subjects who participated in the study, each making two trips around the circuit with a test vehicle and phone preloaded with the TravelSafely smartphone app supplied by Applied Information and Temple, Inc.

The app alerted the drivers in the test vehicles if they exceeded a preset speed threshold in an active school zone. It also alerted them when pedestrians and bicyclists who also had the app installed were in proximity to the test vehicles. Drivers were split into three groups. All subjects drove with the app installed: the first group was a control group that did not receive audible alerts, while the second and third groups received audible-only alerts and audible plus visual alerts, respectively.

The study results showed that the availability of a connected vehicle app decreases the probability of speeding in school zones and increases visual scanning behavior. These could translate into improved situational awareness and increased safety in school zones, according to a summary of findings.

In the case of the bicyclist, the results showed a significant increase in the probability of seeing the cyclist with the availability of the app when the bicyclist was not expected. This suggests the value of the app in improving safety in locations in which cyclists are generally not expected, the summary stated.

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