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Description: There has been a lot of research and debate lately about the developmental impact of social media and smartphones. That debate IS important, but it is worth revisiting an issue that, while not that old, is not a particularly salient part of our conversations about development and particularly about risk management. Most jurisdictions have enacted some form of distracted driving legislation intended to limit a range of driver distractions including cell phone use, while driving. If you are a driver, even a newly licensed driver, I am sure you know you need to be careful about how you use your cellphone while driving (handsfree is permissible in many jurisdictions) and you also know that you should not text while driving. So, no problem, right? Well how about this finding? In 2015 27% of teenaged Ontario (Canada) drivers admitted to texting while driving and 3 years later the percentage had dropped to 6%. Fantastic, this reflects a huge positive change in risk related behavior, right? Well, what if the young drivers in question have NOT reduced their frequency of texting while driving but have, rather, realized that had better not admit that they are doing so? Everyone could use a research-based reality check regarding driving and distraction (and not just involving cell phones). So, think for a minute about how well you manage your limited attentional resources while driving and think about what a list of possible distractors while driving might include and then read the article linked below for your own driving reality audit.

Source: Distracted Driving and Cellphones: What Are the Risks? Romeo Vitelli, Media Spotlight, Psychology Today.

Date: May 3, 2019


Article Link:

So how did your driving distraction audit go? One of the largest challenges to effectively managing distraction risk while driving is the distance (or time) one typically drives between driving events that are seriously hazardous. This is a perfect circumstance for growing an illusion of control and for lowering one’s concern about distracting actions, thoughts and strategies. It is a VERY good idea to take stock from time to time of how well you are actually managing your precious limited attentional resources while driving! It is also worth noting that we cannot always trust that our research participants are fully disclosing the behaviors we are asking them about.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What sorts of (categories of) things contribute to driver distraction?
  2. What research methodologies are needed if we want to get a clear picture of what drivers are really doing behind the wheel?
  3. What are some things we could do to better prepare new drivers to properly and reflectively manage their attentional risks and hazard exposures while driving?

References (Read Further):

Dénommée, J. A., Foglia, V., Roy-Charland, A., Turcotte, K., Lemieux, S., & Yantzi, N. (2019). Cellphone use and young drivers. Canadian Psychology/Psychologie canadienne. Advance online publication.

Adeola, R., & Gibbons, M. (2013). Get the message: Distracted driving and teens. Journal of trauma nursing, 20(3), 146-149.

Wilson, F. A., & Stimpson, J. P. (2010). Trends in fatalities from distracted driving in the United States, 1999 to 2008. American journal of public health, 100(11), 2213-2219.

Tucker, S., Pek, S., Morrish, J., & Ruf, M. (2015). Prevalence of texting while driving and other risky driving behaviors among young people in Ontario, Canada: Evidence from 2012 and 2014. Accident Analysis & Prevention, 84, 144-152.

Lesch, M. F., & Hancock, P. A. (2004). Driving performance during concurrent cell-phone use: are drivers aware of their performance decrements?. Accident Analysis & Prevention, 36(3), 471-480.

Delgado, M. K., Wanner, K. J., & McDonald, C. (2016). Adolescent cellphone use while driving: An overview of the literature and promising future directions for prevention. Media and communication, 4(3), 79.