A recently published Oregon State University study demonstrates dramatically that interactive efforts to educate teens about the dangers of distracted driving are far more successful than passive efforts. However, the study also showed that among younger drivers the problem is just as serious as anecdotal evidence would suggest, and that the focus on texting may be diluting the larger message about the risks of Oregon distracted driving.
According to a summary published by EurekAlert, a PR website, the OSU study found that “while many young drivers understand the risks of texting… they are much less aware of other concerns that can be real – eating, drinking, talking on a cell phone, smoking, adjusting the radio, changing a CD, using a digital map and other controls.” The article adds that in addition to a lack of experience behind the wheel “young drivers also have a higher risk tolerance, use seat belts less and choose higher speeds.”
These findings are, perhaps, unsurprising (though the finding that “27 percent of respondents changed clothes or shoes while driving” was a bit eyebrow-raising), but it is good to see data backing up what many people have long believed based on anecdotal observation. The highlight of the study is its conclusion that young drivers react best to safety training that is “interactive” – training that requires young people to do something rather than simply passively watching a film or listening to a lecture. Interactive training, the study found, was far more effective in reinforcing both the importance of safe driving habits and the bad habits which everyone should avoid.
As a Portland distracted driving lawyer I find the results of this study fascinating and hope that both the legislature and the Oregon Department of Transportation will take the appropriate lessons from it. I have written regularly about the importance of education, especially for younger drivers, but the finding here that the nature of the education – its manner of delivery – matters tremendously if the message is going to get across is especially important. With luck it will cause educators to rethink their approach to this problem in the years ahead.