PacTrans: Educating Teenage Drivers in the Pacific Northwest Regarding the Dangers of Distracted Driving

AIDC project number:


David S. Hurwitz (OSU)

Karen Dixon (OSU)

Bryan Vila (WSU)

Ahmed Abdel-Rahim (UI)

Linda Boyle (UW)

Billy Connor (UAF)



  • Start Date: May 16, 2012
  • End Date: Jul 31, 2014

Project Documents

Project Final Report

Project Summary

Driver distraction can be defined as the diversion of driver attention away from the driving task, and it can result from factors both within and outside of the vehicle (Sheridan, 2004). It can include anything that distracts a driver from the primary task of driving and has been categorized as follows: visual (e.g., reading a map), auditory (e.g., listening to a conversation), biomechanical (e.g., tuning a radio), and cognitive (e.g. ‘being lost in thought,’ and ‘looking but not seeing’) (Ranney et al., 2000). Most distractions are actually a combination of these, thus it may be more useful to categorize distractions according to the task that drivers are engaged in while driving (rather than the combination of the forms of distractions). For example, cell phones are associated with cognitive, auditory, biomechanical, and potentially, visual distractions.

As teenage drivers gain moderate levels of experience, they also tend to have greater crash risks related to driver distraction when compared to drivers in other age groups (Lam, 2002). One proposed explanation for this is that younger drivers appear more willing to accept new technologies and devices than other drivers. As younger drivers become confident in their driving abilities, they tend to over-estimate their ability to multitask with these devices while driving (Sarkar and Andreas, 2004). Poysti et al. (2005) also found that young drivers, from 18- to 24-years old, were more likely to use their cell phones while driving than middle-aged drivers.

The goal of the study is to examine driver distraction among teenagers including what tasks they consider to be distracting as compared to their level of engagement in these same distracting tasks. This study differs from other studies in that a follow-up period will be used to identify differences in response based on feedback and education on distraction.