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Distracted driving

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Distracted driving is one of the most important causes of traffic fatalities at the moment in most Western countries. Since the introduction of smart phones, texting or social media engagement while driving results in inattentive driving, and head-tail collisions, driving off the road or other types of traffic accidents. Several research studies have clearly demonstrated that using the telephone behind the wheel is dangerous. See for example this study of Patten et al., or this study of Thornros et al.

While driving, if you have your eyes off the road for only three seconds or more, the risk of becoming involved in accidents strongly increases. Most of these accidents occur with young inexperienced drivers. They are so engaged in their smart phone that they are

  • not aware of how long their eyes are off the road,
  • or how much attention these applications require.
  • Another important factor is that these young drivers generally overestimate their driving skills,
  • and underestimate the speed at which the situation around the vehicle may change.

In a driving simulator they have the opportunity to experience these dangers and see how this affects their driving behaviour. Several driving simulator programs are available to let young drivers experience the effects of distracted driving by:

  • letting them drive a vehicle on a curvy road with oncoming traffic and then engage them in a secondary task (such as using a cell phone) that distracts their attention to other things than montoring the environment
  • letting them experience that having your eyes off the road for only a few seconds can be a great hazard and frequently results in getting off the road

This can be a real eye opener for them that can save the lives of many young drivers and other road users that get involved in accidents caused by them.

Inattentive driving is only one of the hazards that young and inexperienced drivers have to become more aware of. Other safety awareness programs exist for the effects of alcohol and drugs on driving behaviour. When people become more experienced they learn to take account of the effects of distraction, alcohol or fatigue in prolonged driving, so they refrain from these dangerous activities. But young drivers haven’t had the opportunities yet to learn these associations and a driving simulator can be a great help in this respect.

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