UAB researchers hope car simulator will help change Alabama driving laws

UAB looking to reduce roadway fatalities

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - Over at UAB, researchers are trying to understand how a driver is affected in different environments.

The car simulator in the Translational Research for Injury Prevention, or TRIP Lab, can be helpful with wet roads and other driving hazards.

There are about 20 car simulators out there, but UAB has the only SUV simulator in the world. It’s a Honda Pilot, and that’s because of the rising popularity of these types of vehicles. Obviously they perform differently than a sedan on the road. Dr. Ben McManus says they’ve got a wide range of simulations; from mountainous terrains to flat plains, from cities to suburbs, and from rain to snow.

Last November they were instrumental in a study concerning sleep among medical and surgical residents. McManus says the lack of quality sleep plus the amount of stress actually impaired the residents’ ability to brake in time to avoid an accident while driving within 24 hours of a shift.

There is also a mobile version of the simulator they take out to events and let younger students drive while trying to text. He says their reactions are interesting.

"One of the things they quickly say is, 'I don't see how anyone can do this. Because a lot of the people we're able to take this out to are not yet licensed, so they're still learning to drive. And it shows them, 'I don't think I'm actually capable of doing this and driving safely at the same time,” says Dr. Ben McManus.

McManus hopes research will lead to stricter phone laws in the state. Alabama usually ranks second in the U.S. for number of car crashes.

The lab is constantly doing research and would love volunteers, so if you’d like to participate in one of their studies, call them at 205-975-9440.

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