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MIT Study: Age and Distracted Driving

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On The PhoneOne common assumption is that younger drivers are more prone to distracted driving than older drivers. However, a new study by the AgeLab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is casting new light on this assumption, noting that older individuals tend to get distracted behind the wheel more easily than younger drivers.

The study also determined that different age groups become distracted by different things. Blake Z. Rong, a writer for AutoGuide, fills us in:

Young people tend to stray their attention to in-car stimuli such as cell phones and text messages, while older people draw their attention to sirens and flashing lights — two things that shouldn’t be inside the car, hopefully.

MIT’s AgeLab got these results by placing volunteers inside a driving simulator, then measuring conditions such as heart rate and tracking eye movement. From this data, MIT also found that as people increase in age, they gain a higher element of risk perception; they’re less inclined to drive at night, during rush hour, or quickly, according to researcher Bryan Reimer, Ph.D.

The staff of Auto Observer recently interviewed AgeLab’s Bryan Reimer, who performed the study, and touched on the topic of safety and accident prevention technology for cars. Here is Reimer’s response when asked if more education or more accident prevention technology would be a better approach in light of his findings:

I don’t think technology combating technology is really going to be an effective solution, although we do see many instances of that today. I think some form of education is desperately needed in the U.S. when it comes to automotive purchases and automotive technology. If you buy a vehicle in Germany, the experience of taking delivery of that vehicle tends to be a major occurrence. We learn about all the systems in the vehicle. In the U.S., maybe you get an hour, maybe two with a delivery agent, giving you some of the highlights, helping you pair the phone to the voice system. And then here’s the 200-, 300-, 400-page manual written in part by a legal team. That’s not how to learn how these technologies work in the car. That’s not how to increase your trust in technology, increase your ability to understand the designer’s mental model of how to work with this technology. So, a much more formal education or in-vehicle tutorials need to be developed to help people really benefit from what the manufacturers are putting in the vehicle today. By and large, people aren’t using a lot of what’s available to them in the car. They don’t understand it.

Image by Chris Corwin, used under its Creative Commons license.


One Response to “MIT Study: Age and Distracted Driving”


My daughter and I first consulted with Dan Rosen after a very serious auto accident. Dan had several phone conferences with me, and Tracie was available whenever I called. We would recommend personal injury attorney Dan Rosen to anyone!
Sally from Denver, Colorado

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