MESA, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) - Student researchers at Arizona State University's Human Systems Engineering program are studying why drivers make bad decisions behind the wheel. The research could help discover why so many people drive the wrong way on Arizona's streets and freeways.
Master students John Fallucca and Mathew Dushar are using a simulator to test drivers' reactions. "They'll sit in the driver's seat. They'll turn it on like a real car. They'll put it in gear," said Fallucca.
The students are trying to figure out what drivers are prone to do in times of uncertainty. Will they simply follow the vehicle in front of them? Or will they pay attention to signage and roadway design?
The answer could help determine the reason so many people seem to ignore "wrong way" signs and proceed down off-ramps and onto freeways, heading the wrong direction.
"Research as a whole is still, especially when it comes to wrong-way driving. It is still in the very naive stage. And it's our obligation to the scientific community and to the general public to provide these answers," said Dushar.
In October, CBS 5 Investigates analyzed records from the Arizona Department of Public Safety. Between 2017 and the middle of 2019, DPS officers were alerted to nearly 3,500 wrong-way drivers on Arizona streets, highways and freeways. In nearly 70% of the cases where they had contact with the wrong-way drivers, those drivers turned out to be sober.
According to our analysis, the impaired drivers were much more likely to crash than the sober ones. In cases that resulted in crashes, more than 60% of the drivers were impaired by drugs or alcohol. However, something is causing sober drivers to head down off-ramps into oncoming freeway traffic. Factors that DPS identified include age, fatigue, inattention and drivers who are not familiar with the area.