Classification of Driver Distraction: A Comprehensive Analysis of Feature Generation, Machine Learning, and Input Measures Academic Article uri icon


  • OBJECTIVE: The objective of this study was to analyze a set of driver performance and physiological data using advanced machine learning approaches, including feature generation, to determine the best-performing algorithms for detecting driver distraction and predicting the source of distraction. BACKGROUND: Distracted driving is a causal factor in many vehicle crashes, often resulting in injuries and deaths. As mobile devices and in-vehicle information systems become more prevalent, the ability to detect and mitigate driver distraction becomes more important. METHOD: This study trained 21 algorithms to identify when drivers were distracted by secondary cognitive and texting tasks. The algorithms included physiological and driving behavioral input processed with a comprehensive feature generation package, Time Series Feature Extraction based on Scalable Hypothesis tests. RESULTS: Results showed that a Random Forest algorithm, trained using only driving behavior measures and excluding driver physiological data, was the highest-performing algorithm for accurately classifying driver distraction. The most important input measures identified were lane offset, speed, and steering, whereas the most important feature types were standard deviation, quantiles, and nonlinear transforms. CONCLUSION: This work suggests that distraction detection algorithms may be improved by considering ensemble machine learning algorithms that are trained with driving behavior measures and nonstandard features. In addition, the study presents several new indicators of distraction derived from speed and steering measures. APPLICATION: Future development of distraction mitigation systems should focus on driver behavior-based algorithms that use complex feature generation techniques.

author list (cited authors)

  • McDonald, A. D., Ferris, T. K., & Wiener, T. A.

publication date

  • January 1, 2019 11:11 AM


  • Distraction ClassificationCognitive DistractionMachine LearningTime-series Feature GenerationPhysiological Measures