Distracted driving program highlights road dangers

One in five car crashes are a result of distracted driving.

Wednesday, Feb. 13, the school hosted a program to teach students about the dangers of distracted driving. Students and their parents were welcome to join the presenters in Recital Hall to learn how student drivers are most often distracted, the effects and consequences of distractions and how to avoid those distractions.

Students from the George Mason Arch Lab, a laboratory in their Psychology Department, presented statistics and simulations to inform teenagers and their parents about the dangers of driving with distractions. The turnout for the event was extremely sparse, with only about six or seven students and their parents. Most students were unaware of the event at all.

“My parents sort of forced me to, but I’m glad I went because I thought it was very interesting,” sophomore Sam Green said.

According to the Arch Lab studies, there are three types of distractions while driving: physical, mental and visual. The presenters gave examples of each type of distraction, as well as ways to avoid them. For example, a driver who is taking their eyes off the road is experiencing a visual distraction. Drivers should be alert and aware of their surroundings at all times. Other examples given include limiting the number of passengers in a car, turning phones off to avoid the temptation to text and keeping the radio volume to a medium level.

One of the most obvious and dangerous distractions is the use of cell phones behind the wheel. The Arch Lab has concluded almost 40% of teenagers have admitted to texting while driving, and 20% of their crashes were the result of distracted driving.

“I found it very interesting when they were explaining how texting is the ‘perfect storm’ of distractions, using visual, coordinative and stimulus brain movements,” Green said. “It surprised me how texting truly uses almost all of your concentration.”

In the middle of the presentation, students were offered the chance to simulate the experience of texting and driving by playing a video game which imitated driving. The student playing the game would text friends to see how dangerous their driving became.

The presenters also informed the audience of driving laws specific to teen drivers. Drivers under 18 can only have one non-family passenger in the car. Also, the only time they can be on their phone is if the car is stopped and turned off. They suggested either turning the phone off while driving or putting it in a do-not-disturb mode, which is available on many phones.

One point highly emphasized was teen drivers are not worse drivers than adults- they are just inexperienced. Teenagers don’t always make the right decisions because they have not been put in a certain situation before.

The Arch Program tours around giving presentations and has impacted how many teens perceive the importance of focusing while driving.

“I think the facts about texting and how it is such a distraction will make me consider the risks while driving when I want to text,” Green said. “Until that seminar, I never really thought about how texting takes almost every sense from focusing on driving to respond to that text.”

Although not many students attended the presentation, those who did attend feel they benefited in at least some ways by learning about distracted driving and its results.