OSLO, Norway — Older women may take longer to get to a destination, if the stereotype holds true, but at least they’re more likely to get there in one piece. Distracted driving is a dangerous behavior that continues to pose a deadly problem, and now a new study shows that certain demographics are the worst offenders.
Researchers at the Institute for Transport Economics in Norway surveyed over 1,500 Norwegian high school students and adults, asking them a variety of questions about their most-used distractions, attitudes pertaining to distracted driving, and most prominent personality qualities.
While levels of driver distraction were relatively low as a whole, two variables — age and gender — were found to be closely linked to one’s likelihood of checking their phone or messing with the radio behind the wheel.
“I found that young men were among the most likely to report distraction,” explains researcher Ole Johansson in a media release. “Others more prone to distraction include those who drive often, and those with neurotic and extroverted personalities.”
In terms of attitudes that could produce a distracted driver, the researchers found that those who believed that the practice was either socially acceptable, or beyond their control, were more likely to self-identify as an offender.
Conversely, older female drivers and those who felt that they could control their impulses were least likely to report distraction.
Another component of the study examined the effectiveness of interventions intended to reduce distracted driving.
One group of participants was asked to come up with a solution to stop dangerous driving behaviors (e.g., speeding) as they happened, while a control group was told the dangers of reckless driving, but not asked to formulate a prevention plan.
Both groups saw similar declines in the incidence of distracted driving, which led the researchers to believe that merely completing the self-identifying survey and reviewing unsafe driving behaviors led to increased awareness.
Ultimately, Johansson argues that effective interventions should allow an individual some autonomy in how they’re applied, as this leads to increased engagement.
“Tailored interventions to reduce driver distraction could focus on at-risk groups, such as young males with bad attitudes to distracted driving and a low belief that they can control their distraction,” he concludes.
According to a 2016 World Health Organization report, about 1 million people die and 50 million are hurt each year in automobile accidents, with distracted driving being one of the major causes of many wrecks. Researchers say the odds of an accident soar within just two seconds of being distracted.
The study’s findings were published last week in the journal Frontiers in Psychology.