Driving simulators are used across Canada for road safety research, and public health faculty at the University of Saskatchewan (USask) will be using a unique version of this technology.
“The one thing that makes our campus and our centre a little bit more unique is we have essentially the only truck simulator that we can use for behavioural research,” said USask assistant professor Alexander Crizzle.
The simulator will replicate everything a real truck cabin has, including mirrors, gears, steering wheel and even air conditioning.
The research team has a few studies already planned out.
They will see how cannabis use impacts driving and find the best ways to detect it with roadside testing, as many methods don’t work well in winter months or colder weather.
“We’ll also look at fatigue, the importance of fatigue and driving on monotonous routes and how that influences crash risk,” Crizzle adds.
The research will go beyond just truck driving. People who need to re-learn how to drive, like those who have had a stroke, will use the simulators to see if cognitive abilities improve with more practice.
Outside of research, the simulators will be a useful tool for new drivers. Private trucking companies can train new drivers at the university so they can get used to the feel of a large truck before hitting the roads.
“Especially for new drivers, just being able practice parking, that’s a very difficult task for those who have never really driven a truck,” Crizzle said.
Saskatchewan Government Insurance (SGI) has partnered with the research team so student drivers can also have access to the technology. It is the first time the company will be using technology like this.
“If the student is enrolled in the driving education program or is in the GDL and the instructors deem it necessary to give them hands-on experience, they can use it,” said SGI director of safety program evaluation George Eguakun.
The simulators are expected to be in use by September, and results of the studies could come as soon as next year.
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