General Motors China, the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute and Tongji University in Shanghai launch a study of driver behavior in China, with a view to improving vehicle, driver and passenger safety.

The 3-year program will measure the responses and habits of 60 to 90 Chinese drivers in GM vehicles equipped with sensitive monitoring equipment. Each driver will be evaluated for a 3-month period and electronically collected data will be analyzed to establish detailed driver behavior patterns.

The program addresses China’s high rates of vehicle accidents and vehicle-related deaths. China has the world’s highest number of vehicle fatalities, with 2010 data showing 65,225 deaths and 254,075 injuries resulting from 3.9 million traffic accidents, according to GM China.

“The driving study will assist us in developing advanced technologies that will allow vehicle users to better deal with the traffic environment in China,” David Lake, GM China director-public policy, says in a statement.

“We have been in discussion with Tongji University and VTTI about the feasibility of carrying out this study since 2009. We are confident that it will make transportation more convenient and safer for vehicle users and road users alike.”

Guo Feng of VTTI adds: “The driving study will help improve traffic safety, reduce accidents and identify driver habits. This will support the development of advanced driving-safety systems and next-generation data-acquisition systems.

“It is an important research tool that has been used to explore traffic security in the United States since 2009. VTTI has provided installation service and demonstrated data collection and downloading. We believe the driving study will provide invaluable assistance for managing China’s road and transportation systems.”

Fang Shouen, vice president of Tongji University and a Chinese government authority on traffic safety, says, “Traditional traffic accident data has always come from investigations and eyewitness testimony after the fact, resulting in an incomplete picture of driver behavior. Our study will generate solid data.

“Over the past three years, we have visited VTTI to carry out research and learn more about the driving study. We have also received great support from GM. Today is a new beginning.

“By utilizing Tongji University’s world-class driving simulator in conjunction with the program, we are confident that we will take traffic safety research in China to a new stage.”