Study suggests age and gender predictors of distracted driving

By Karin Lillis • Published: January 5th, 2018
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

It’s no secret that distracted drivers are a leading cause of vehicle accidents. The World Health Organization estimates more than 1 million people are killed in traffic accidents each year, and distraction is a major factor in many of them.

A study by researchers in Norway focused on who might be more susceptible to being distracted while driving. They found that extroverts, people who drive a lot and young men top the list. Older women and those who said they could limit distractions were much more likely to drive safely, according to results in the journal Frontiers in Psychology.

The researchers surveyed groups of high school students and adults about the kinds of distractions they encountered while driving and how often they occurred. The survey also gauged personality traits and general views on distracted driving. The most significant predictors were gender and age.

The study also looked at ways to decrease distracted driving. Participants selected plans with “if” and “then” statements such as, “If I am tempted to drive faster than the speed limit, then I will remind myself that it is dangerous and illegal to do so.” A control group was given just educational information about distractions.

In a follow-up survey, both groups reported a similar decline in distracted driving, suggesting that exposure to educational materials alone might be enough to promote safer driving.

One possible solution, the authors said, could be to urge people to devise their own plans to limit distractions, with the idea being that such buy-in might lead to drivers being more engaged. Just don’t do that homework while behind the wheel.