This research brief reviews the current scientific evidence concerning the effectiveness of existing and emerging countermeasures against distracted driving.
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According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 3,166 people were killed in 2017 in motor vehicle crashes in the United States in which one or more drivers was reported as distracted. On a recent nationally-representative survey, 52% of respondents reported talking on a handheld cellphone while driving in the past 30 days, while 41% reported reading texts or emails and 32% reported typing texts or emails while driving. While it is generally acknowledged that distracted driving is underreported, it is clear that drivers on the road are engaging in non-driving related tasks. It is well-established that distracted driving interferes with safe driving and increases crash risk, though estimates of risk vary by specific behavior and context. Given the limited resources available for improving traffic safety, it is important to understand the effectiveness of various countermeasures against distracted driving that may be considered for implementation. The objective of this research brief is to review the current scientific evidence concerning the effectiveness of existing and emerging countermeasures against distracted driving.
A search was conducted in April 2019 using the PubMed, Transport Research International Documentation (TRID), PsycARTICLES, PsycINFO, and PsycEXTRA databases for relevant scientific literature. The search targeted papers that combined key words related to (1) transportation modes (i.e., driving, walking, bicycling, motorcycling) and (2) distraction (both generally and including specific distracting behaviors). Articles were required to be written in English and to have been published between 2010 and 2019 – in order to better reflect current practices, conditions, available technology, and behavior.
The initial search yielded 15,000 articles. All titles and abstracts were reviewed for inclusion by four independent reviewers based on a set of inclusion and exclusion criteria. Inter-rater agreement on article inclusion among a subset used for training ranged from 97-99%. Title and abstract review reduced the number of potentially relevant papers to 205. The vast majority of studies omitted were not directly relevant to countermeasure effectiveness.
For the final set of articles, key information was distilled and summarized in a table using the abstract and/or full article as necessary. The information entered into the table included the countermeasure type(s), a description of the countermeasure; study sample; target behavior(s); study design, main outcome measure(s); results; notes, if applicable; and reference (source). Entering this information and consulting full texts further identified studies that were excluded due to not addressing countermeasure effectiveness, or being a review article or dissertation. A total of 102 articles were entered into the Summary Table.
Thirty-nine relevant articles were identified for educational and/or behavioral countermeasures, 43 for legislative countermeasures, three for enforcement countermeasures, and 18 for technology. Articles that touched on two countermeasure types, of which there were few, were considered under both types. The results are summarized by countermeasure type in the research brief and the reader is encouraged to refer to the Summary Table for a more comprehensive presentation of the relevant studies.
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