The Challenge of Distracted Driving

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 18,950
    Dr. Bill Van Tassel, manager of AAA Driver Training, explains how distractions impact drivers’ safety on our roadways and why distracted driving is contributing to so many crashes.

    Dr. Bill Van Tassel: Hello! I am Dr. Bill Van Tassel, Manager of Driver Training Programs for AAA. Here to talk to you about how to avoid distracted driving. In this video, I will be discussing the challenge of being distracted behind the wheel.

    NHTSA or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that inattentive driving is a factor enough to 25% of all vehicle crashes. The issue is difficult to track, but none of us have to look far to notice distracters all around us.

    Most people probably associate driver distraction with cellphones and other hand-held electronic devices, but distractions can be caused by many activities, and objects both inside and outside the car.

    Drivers maybe watching people outside of the car, changing CDs, grooming or reading a paper or a map, drivers may also be eating, drinking or engaged in countless other activities that a person can do while a vehicle is in motion. It's crucial to recognize that driving requires your full attention.

    As a rule, if you can't devote your full attention to driving because of some other activity, you should handle that task before or after your trip, not behind the wheel, or pull over and stop your car first.

    To understand the effects of distractions on driving, we need to understand the driving task. At its simplest, driving can be divided into three main tasks. First, perception; a driver must perceive what's going on in the driving environment. Second, decision; the driver must use the information gained through perception to make a decision about what to do in a particular situation. Third, action; the driver must execute his or her decision. Let's take a look at example of perception, decision and action.

    Here a driver perceives a car ahead stopping suddenly. To avoid colliding with the suddenly stopping car ahead, the driver must decide whether to apply the breaks or steer around. Then, the driver avoids the collision by steering around the vehicle ahead.

    Perception, decision, action; it's important to note that driver error can take place during any one of these. They are all important. A mistake in just one of these could cause a chance of a collision to increase substantially.

    With attention focused on another activity, you can easily misperceiving an important change in your driving environment; such as a car pulling out in front of you; a signal light changing from green to yellow or stop sign.

    If your attention becomes divided, all decision making slows down. And as you add more tasks, your performance on each one become slower; you may not be able to make the correct decision or make a decision quickly enough.

    If you are distracted, you could also fail to execute the driving maneuver selected during the decision step. For example, you could fail to break or accelerate at the right time or with the proper amount of pressure on the pedal.

    You can fail to turn the steering wheel far enough or fast enough, especially in a physical distraction when you've allowed a distraction to take one or more hands off the wheel. As you can see, driving is a full-time job. It really does require your full attention. In next video, we will address some of the most common distraction drivers interact with; radios, CD players, GPS devices, and other in vehicle electronics.