Distracted driving is, next to DUI (driving under the influence), one of the main causes of car driving accidents. Distracted driving is the act of driving while engaged in other activities—such as looking after children, texting, talking on the phone or to a passenger, eating, or reading—that take the driver’s attention away from the road. All distractions compromise the safety of the driver, passengers, bystanders and those in other vehicles (definition from Wikipedia). Distracted driving is now considered as an epidemic: only in the US, in 2012 more than 3000 were killed in distracted driving crashes.
Driving a vehicle requires a considerable amount of attention. This is expecially so for young, inexperienced, drivers, who still need controlled attention while driving a car. Sharing their limited attentional resources with other tasks, such as texting or using a cell phone, goes at the expense of driving performance. Expecially when the eyes are taken off the road for more than 3 seconds will result in severly increased accident risk.
Young drivers typically overestimate their driving skils and their ‘multitasking’ ability. They often think they can do two things simultaneously: driving and texting. However, multitasking is only possible when both tasks don’t require controlled attentional resources, such as eating while walking. Texting definitely requires attentional resources and driving a car most definitely requires controlled attention for young drivers. This is the reason that distraction affects young drivers stronger compared to experienced drivers.
In order to make young drivers more aware of the effects of distracted driving on accident risk, a test drive in a driving simulator can be a convincing eye opener.