For the past few years, researchers at the University of South Florida's Center for Urban Transportation Research have been watching people drive as part of a national study on driver habits.

Lead researcher Achilleas Kourtellis, Ph.D., said the goal was to gather data on how people drive and the way they drive.

To accomplish this goal, over 3,000 people were studied nationwide, including more than 700 drivers in Tampa Bay. Their cars were outfitted front to back with sensors and cameras to watch their every move, even down to the motion in a driver's eyes, according to Kourtellis.

"The way this study was different than anything else that happened before was we actually equipped people's cars with equipment that was monitoring them and they were driving their own car on their own everyday tasks," he said.

Participant study time ranged from four months to two and a half years.

Some of the results came back as expected, such as those regarding distracted driving. Kourtellis says the study found drivers who took their eyes off the road for as long as 4.6 seconds.

"When you think about it, if you travel at an average of 50 miles an hour for 4.6 seconds, you've traveled a whole football field without looking," he said. "So imagine the chances of you getting in a crash."

The study also looked at "near crashes," which is defined as an incident in which a driver swerves to avoid another car.  Kourtellis says that data that has never been captured before. Researchers can now look at how we act and react to traffic.

The approaches to pedestrian intersections were also part of the study. By watching drivers' eyes, researchers can tell if existing signs are doing their job or if things need to be changed.

The analysis of the study will keep researchers busy for many years, with the goal of creating safer roads, cars and drivers.