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InsureLearnerDriver | January 24, 2019

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The Science Behind Distracted Driving

The Science Behind Distracted Driving
George Trout
  • On July 11, 2016

According to an American study at the University of Houston – ‘Dissecting Driver Behaviors Under Cognitive, Emotional, Sensorimotor, and Mixed Stressors’, there is now a scientific reason why texting and distracted driving in general is so dangerous.

Research suggests it’s down to the way our minds react to distractions or, more importantly, don’t react.

So what happens?

The Test

Participants were asked to drive using an electronic driving simulator. Each participant drove on the same stretch of road, 4 times, each time being exposed to a different distraction.

  • Whilst driving – no distractions were imposed
  • Whilst driving – they were asked cognitively demanding questions
  • Whilst driving – they were asked emotionally charged questions
  • Whilst driving – they were asked to perform texting based tasks

The distraction that caused the driver to have the most dangerous control of the vehicle whilst driving was texting.

Woman having a phone call while putting on lipstick

Here’s the Science

Distractions whilst driving affect our brains by cutting off the natural connection we have between our eyes and our Anterior Cingulate Cortex, or ACC for short.

What’s the ACC?

The ACC is a section of the brain that activates when we are in danger.

When we are driving, our ACC is in constant activation. It is what causes us to correct our driving and keeps us out of harm’s way.

e.g. if we start to veer out of our lane, our ACC is what causes us to veer back in lane.

What was found is that distracted driving does not allow these messages to be sent as fast normal.

In the situation where the driver was texting whilst driving, their reaction to danger was inhibited by the driver’s focus being split between their phone and the road.

Even a professional would struggle

Here’s what happened when Aston Martin GT racer Darren Turner had his ACC disrupted whilst driving on a simulated track.


Spread the word

If you know someone who often texts and drives, you now have a scientific reason for why they shouldn’t. We at InsureLearnerDriver think safety is paramount and any way a driver can lower their risk of having an accident is something, we believe, should be sought after.


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