What exactly are the human factors of distracted driving? According the Department of Transportation, there were 190,625,023 what? in the United States in 2000. This is an increase of 23.73% since 1980 and an a 12.39% increase over 1990. According to the US Census, there were 10.6 million motor vehicle accidents in 2007. Of those accidents, over 43,000 resulted in the death of an individual. More than 90% of traffic accidents are due to human error and more than 90% of these accidents are due the driver “looking but not seeing” indicating visual accusation errors.
One of the many areas of human behavior that Human Factors Professionals and Ergonomists study is the interaction between humans and their ability to safely and efficiently operate a vehicle. Driving is an example of an environment in which survival relies heavily on visual attention, awareness of ones surroundings, and the correct recognition of environmental factors the present dangers. When driving, the drivers constantly perceive visual cues which we interpret, prioritize and base decisions upon. There are many factors which determine how quickly we perceive stimuli, interpret its meaning and relevance, and make a decision which can be followed with as action.
Drivers who suffer lapse in attention, either through inattention or distraction, cause many auto accidents. Distraction is attention to irrelevant stimuli or actions, over more important environmental factors or actions. In 2006 the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration published results from the “100 car study” which reported that inattention contributed to 78% of all recorded crashes and 65% of the near- crashes.
Distractions that drivers are presented with on a more frequently occurrence include but are not limited to:
- Cell phones calls
- Electronics (GPS, music, DVD player…)
- Talking on a cell phone
- Applying make-up
- Changing radio stations
- Looking for a cigarette or lighter
- Addressing car passenger behavior; such as the driver turning his or her head to face children in the back seat
Other distractions are more involuntary. For instance, electronic billboards by design are intended to draw a driver’s attention from the road to the advertisement.
Distractions such as these can inhibit a driver’s ability to safely operate a vehicle and can lead to injury or death of themselves and others. Board Certified Human Factors Professionals and Ergonomists can help determine if distractions contributed to accidents.