Tempted to send a text while you’re hauling down the highway? Psychiatrists have a pretty good idea what your gender is and what your personality is like-and how big a risk you’re taking.
If you’re in the habit of driving distracted and all you get is a ticket-consider yourself lucky. Every year more than 1.25 million people die in road crashes, and between 20 and 50 million more get injured, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), and the group names distracted driving as one of the top two causes of accidents. Now, Norwegian researchers have found the types of personalities most likely to take this kind of risk. (Here’s how parents can avoid distracted driving.)
“Drivers using mobile phones are approximately four times more likely to be involved in a crash than drivers not using a mobile phone,” the WHO reports. “Using a phone while driving slows reaction times (notably braking reaction time, but also reaction to traffic signals), and makes it difficult to keep in the correct lane, and to keep the correct following distances.” (Take these steps to keep your hands on the wheel and off of your phone.)
Yet there has been little research into distracted driving, observed transportation researchers Ole Jørgen Johansson and Aslak Fyhri in an academic paper recently published in the journal, Frontiers in Psychology. Figuring out who is most likely to engage in distracted driving is a crucial first step in developing effective interventions that will reduce distracted driving, they say. Johansson and Fyhri set out to identify the demographics, attitudes, intentions, and personality traits common among those who engage in distracted driving.
The researchers administered a survey to 1500 Norwegian teens and young adults; after crunching the numbers, the researchers discovered that the greatest predictors for distracted driving are age and gender, with young men most likely to report distraction.
They found six types of people are most likely to drive distracted:
- young men
- people who drive often
- neurotic people
- extroverted people
- people who feel driving distracted is socially acceptable
- people who feel driving distracted is beyond their control
Although the researchers were not able to identify an effective intervention that would target all these groups, the findings lead them to believe that “simply being exposed to material about distracted driving” may go a long way toward that goal. Accordingly, Johansson and Fyhri say that future research should focus on novel intervention techniques as well as other measures to predict distractability.