Science Finds Novice Drivers And Handhelds Don’t Mix On The Road

We basically all knew this, but science just confirmed that novice drivers are easily distracted by cellphones on the road which leads, almost inevitably, to accidents. The study, conducted by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute and the National Institutes of Child Health and Human Development, watched drivers as they texted, tweeted, and got into accidents. They found that as young drivers spent a few more months behind the wheel their initial skittishness turns into confidence, multi-tasking, and crashes.

According to the study, “drivers from 15 years to 20 years of age represent 6.4 percent of all motorists on the road, but account for 11.4 percent of fatalities and 14 percent of police-reported crashes resulting in injuries.”

“The true risk is probably higher than indicated,” said Feng Guo, co-author of the study.

Essentially what happens is that novice drivers begin with an excess of caution and then become distracted. By watching multiple drivers with hidden video cameras they’ve seen novices slowly become as distracted as their experienced counterparts. The co-authors, Charlie Klauer and Guo, compared a 100-car study of drivers between 18 and 72 with an 18-month study of 42 teens with little road experience. The setup included four video cameras and driving performance sensors. Data coders noted when the drivers were distracted by phone calls and texts and noted when the participants were in “crash/near-crash events.”

“In previous studies we found that crash or near-crash rates among the novice drivers were nearly four times higher than for experienced drivers,” said Klauer. “Therefore, it should not be surprising that secondary task engagement contributes to this heightened risk among novice drivers.”

Why does this matter to us technonerds? If someone could perfect the non-distracting notification/lock system, the world, I suspect, would beat a path to their door. As it stands, however, keep your eyes on the road and off your phone.