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New Study Helps with Understanding and Preventing Distracted Driving

On Behalf of | Feb 6, 2018 | Car Accidents

By now, we should all know that distracted driving is dangerous. Researchers around the globe have published numerous studies in recent years that establish the clear connection between driver distraction and the increased risk of getting into a car accident.

Most distracted driving research has focused on distraction caused by talking or texting on cell phones. However, as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reminds people, distracted driving consists of “any activity that diverts attention from driving.” In other words, it can also include driving while trying to eat, drink, smoke, groom, play with the radio, talk with passengers or control a pet at the same time.

Statistics highlight the danger, too. The NHTSA reports that, in 2015 alone, distracted driving caused 3,477 people to lose their lives in the U.S. and another 391,000 to suffer injuries.

However, if we want to solve this problem, we need to know more than the fact that distracted driving leads to auto accidents. We need to dig deeper and find out why some people engage in this behavior despite its obvious risks, according to a study recently released by a group of researchers in Norway.

Study Looks at Age, Gender and Personalities of Distracted Drivers

Researchers from the Norway Institute of Transport Economics published the study in November 2017 in the journal, Frontiers in Psychology. The research team surveyed more than 1,700 people, including teenagers and adults, in the first study of its kind to analyze the link between personal traits and distraction, according to The Independent. Those personal traits included the person’s age, gender and personality type.

Based on the survey responses, the study reached several interesting conclusions such as:

  • Young men are the most likely to drive while distracted. Older women are less likely to do so.
  • People who feel that distracted driving is “socially acceptable” and don’t believe they can control distractions are more likely to engage in distracted driving. In contrast, people who are convinced they can control their behavior are less likely to drive to do it.
  • Distracted driving is most common among people with “neurotic” and “extroverted” personalities.

The researchers also examined possible interventions. As National Public Radio (NPR) reports, the researchers gave the participants a test with questions that they designed to make participants “think about distracted driving.” However, the study found that this method had little impact on the participants.

According to the study’s lead author, Ole Johansson, the study’s results reveal that raising awareness about the problem of distracted driving will only go so far when it comes to solving the problem. He said that prevention plans could be more effective if they focused more on specific “at-risk” groups such as the ones that the study identified – young men, for instance, or people who think distracted driving is socially acceptable. Traffic safety officials could tailor prevention plans specifically for those groups and their personal traits.

What Can We Do to Address Distracted Driving Behavior?

Over the last decade, states throughout the country have enacted laws that prohibit distracted driving – particularly driving while distracted by an electronic device such as a cell phone. The Governors Highway Safety Association reports that, currently:

  • 15 states ban all drivers from using hand-held phones
  • 38 states prohibit all cell phone use by novice drivers
  • 20 states ban all cell phone use by school bus drivers
  • 47 states bar texting while driving by all drivers (including 43 states that have a primary enforcement law, or a law that allows police to pull over drivers specifically because they suspect texting while driving).

Still, NPR notes, police and prosecutors struggle to enforce these laws. For instance, a patrol officer may hesitate to pull over a person if they cannot tell whether the person is texting or doing something else such as getting directions from Google Maps. Additionally, Johansson told NPR that enforcement can lead to “social backlash,” and people may simply continue to drive while distracted.

Technology helps. People can get several apps today that disable cell phones while a person is driving or block them from receiving phone calls and text messages, Verizon points out. Still, technology also greatly contributes to the problem. For instance, does your car feature a dashboard “infotainment system?” Have you ever found yourself paying more attention to the system than the road? You are not alone.

So, maybe it is time to focus specifically on “at-risk” groups. For instance, traffic safety officials could design anti-distracted driving campaigns that appeal to younger men, or they could be aimed at convincing drivers that distracted driving is not socially acceptable – much like anti-tobacco campaigns have tried to take the “cool” factor out of smoking.

Did a Distracted Driver Cause Your Car Accident? Get Help Today

At Lindner Law LLC., we will continue to support new and innovative legislative, law enforcement and public awareness efforts that aim to put an end to distracted driving. As personal injury attorneys who fight to protect the rights of auto accident victims and their families across seven states, we know how devastating distracted driving accidents can be. We want them to stop – today. We will continue to play our role by holding careless and reckless drivers accountable for the harm they cause to others and by pursuing settlements and judgments that justly compensate distracted driving accident victims for their medical expenses, lost income, pain, suffering and more.

If you believe that a distracted driver caused a crash that injured you or your loved one, contact us today to learn more about how we can serve you, including our No Cost, No Fee, VIP Guarantee. Call or reach us online today to get started with a free consultation.