Mikołaj Sokołowski Mar 29, 2024 - Interior sensing

The importance of driver stress detection in Driver Monitoring

Detecting challenging driver states, such as drowsiness, distraction, and stress, is the top priority of driver monitoring studies, and is the core functionality of industrial advancements, popularly recognized as Driver (or Occupants) Monitoring Systems. Road safety and driver states are – after all – closely intertwined. Vehicles must perfectly detect and understand human states for a proper alert emission or a successful and safe transfer of control in the case of semi-autonomous vehicles. If driver-related factors (i.e., error, impairment, fatigue, and distraction) are present in almost 90% of crashes, the importance of effective driver-state detection is undeniable (Dingus et al., 2016).

Our DMS experts, Anna Stróż and Olga Zdzienicka recognized that driver stress detection is a rather unexplored territory. Their extensive research on the subject resulted in a special handbook on driver stress detection that you can download for free on our website. It is packed with automotive insights, various methods of driver stress assessment, and current market solutions for stress detection or mitigation in the automotive context.

Now let our educational ride begin: we will learn about the road implications of stress.


The relationship between driver stress and road safety

Stress, as a complex physiological response to both external and internal factors, plays a key role in road safety. One of the most popular approaches to defining stress is the transactional approach (Cox & Ferguson, 1991; Lazarus & Folkman, 1984; Matthews, 2002), based on which stress among drivers results from the dynamic relationship between the driver and the surrounding environment.

This dynamic relationship can be described as the driver’s assessment of the situation to determine whether the situation is threatening with internal and external factors mediating this process, therefore affecting possible outcomes of evaluation (Gulian et al., 1989). If, as a result of the driver’s assessment of the situation, he or she perceives it as threatening, a stress response follows. What does it mean in practice?

The impact of stress on the driving experience may depend both on the driver’s personality and actual driving conditions (Matthews et al., 1991). What do we consider a stress-inducing stimulus? Your mental states, emotions, and tiredness may be internal stressors. Bad weather conditions, a terrible traffic jam, negative interactions with other drivers, or rush are examples of external stressors.

Let’s take a look at how stress may affect driving performance and safety on the road, exemplifying it with some research findings. There are studies suggesting that stress can impair a driver’s abilities, increasing the likelihood of accidents and traffic violations (e.g., Beirness, 1993; Simon & Corbett, 1996).

For instance, Ge et al. (2014) found that perceived stress is linked to negative driving behaviors such as aggression and impaired judgment. Similarly, Bowen, Budden, and Smith (2020) identified stress as a predictor of adverse driving outcomes, including increased risk and incidents of road rage.

Additionally, simulator studies by Matthews, Sparkes, and Bygrave (2009) indicate that stressed drivers may struggle more with tasks requiring minimal active control, emphasizing the complex impact of stress on driving performance.

Road safety and full-driver state detection

In short, if we want to anticipate and mitigate the impact of stress on drivers accurately, it is crucial to prioritize comprehensive and methodologically sound stress detection studies on a large scale. Our handbook is an extensive guide on different driver stress assessment methods with both theoretical knowledge and practical tips for everyone interested in the subject. Road safety starts with a deep understanding of the driver’s behavior, especially in a state of stress.

Check out our previous articles if you are interested in the issue of taking control of an automated vehicle or regulatory aspects of driver distraction testing.

🔴 Ready for more knowledge? Download the handbook here and dive into the fascinating research of driver stress detection curated by Anna and Olga.

🔴 Interested in complex full-driver state detection services, including testing for drowsiness, distraction, stress, and driving under the influence? Our DMS teams are at your service. E-mail us at: humanfactors@robotec.ai

🔴 Curious about our latest projects? Follow us on LinkedIn to always stay updated!

Mikołaj Sokołowski, Researcher at Robotec.ai

Beirness, D. (1993). Do we really drive as we live? The role of personality factors in road crashes. Alcohol, Drugs and Driving, 9, 126–143.

Bowen, L., Budden, S. L., & Smith, A. P. (2020). Factors underpinning unsafe driving: A systematic literature review of car drivers. Transportation research part F: traffic psychology and behaviour, 72, 184-210.

Cox, T., & Ferguson, E. (1991). Individual differences, stress and coping. In C.L. Cooper & R. Payne (Eds.), Personality and stress: Individual differences in the coping process (pp. 7-32). Chichester: Wiley.

Dingus, T. A., Guo, F., Lee, S., Antin, J. F., Perez, M., Buchanan-King, M., & Hankey, J. (2016). Driver crash risk factors and prevalence evaluation using naturalistic driving data. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 113(10), 2636-2641.

Ge, Y., Qu, W., Jiang, C., Du, F., Sun, X., & Zhang, K. (2014). The effect of stress and personality on dangerous driving behavior among Chinese drivers. Accident Analysis & Prevention, 73, 34-40.

Gulian, E., Matthews, G., Glendon, A.I., Davies, D.R., & Debney, L.M. (1989). Dimensions of driver stress. Ergonomics, 32, 585-602.

Lazarus, R. S., & Folkman, S. (1984). Stress, appraisal, and coping. New York: Springer Publishers.

Matthews, G. (2002). Towards a transactional ergonomics for driver stress and fatigue. Theoretical Issues in Ergonomics, 3(2), 195–211.

Matthews, G., Sparkes, T. J., & Bygrave, H. M. (1996). Attentional overload, stress, and simulate driving performance. Human Performance, 9(1), 77-101.

Matthews, G., Dorn, L., & Glendon, A. I. (1991). Personality correlates of driver stress. Personality and Individual Differences, 12(6), 535-549.

Simon, F., & Corbett, C. (1996). Road traffic offending, stress, and accident history among male and female drivers. Ergonomics, 39(6), 757–780.

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