Distracted driving: What is the state of the science, and what are our knowledge gaps?

Ferguson, S.A.
National Institutes of Health

This literature review highlighted studies that examined a wide variety of distractions and their different effects on the abilities of different types of drivers. It described studies that investigated distraction and differences between young adult drivers and adult drivers. In particular, distracted young adult drivers had higher crash rates than adults, and this may be due to their inexperience driving. It was also reported that the conditions and timing of the performance of tasks is an important element of distraction. In other words, research is needed to identify the circumstances under which drivers perform distraction-related tasks and why drivers engage in these behaviours.

The author indicated that strong laws with publicized strong enforcement were a proven countermeasure for changing driver behaviour. In addition, it was noted that a critical requirement when states pass laws aimed at changing driver behaviour is to evaluate whether these laws have been successful in affecting behaviour and crash risk. It was concluded that since the range of in-vehicle distractions is constantly changing, it is important future research and legislators consider the range of behaviours that result in distracted driving, and not just cell phones. Furthermore, it was suggested that future research investigates why and under what circumstances drivers choose to disengage from the driving task.

Ferguson, S. A. (2014). Distracted driving: What is the state of the science, and what are our knowledge gaps?. Annals of Advances in Automotive Medicine, 58, 1.