July 09, 2024, Durham, NC – iRT is dedicated to preventing distracted and impaired driving and helping drivers, prevention professionals, and community members protect themselves and others on the road. Plan My Ride is iRT’s interactive, multimedia, eLearning program developed with and for young drivers to teach safe driving skills to prevent distracted and impaired driving. Unlike other safe driving educational programs, Plan My Ride uses a science-backed and theory-driven approach to change behavior by teaching concrete, practical strategies to avoid impaired and distracted driving, and providing opportunities for young drivers to practice the skills they have learned in 360-degree virtual scenarios. The program is accessible on mobile devices and computers to meet teens where they are.

This article is the third in a series of articles describing how each lesson of the Plan My Ride program was strategically designed to help young drivers learn important information and strategies to prevent distracted and impaired driving.

Plan My Ride Lesson 3: Avoid Distracted Driving

Cell phone use has become increasingly common among teenagers and young adults. In fact, a recent survey with American teenagers found that 95% of teens had access to a smart phone, and 4 in 10 teens reported feeling that they spent too much time on their cell phone.

As cell phone use among young people continues to grow, young drivers are at risk for dangerous distracted driving habits. A naturalistic study conducted in 2018 found that 17–22-year-olds touched their cell phones while driving approximately 1.71 times per minute.

The goals of Lesson 3 of Plan My Ride are to help young people understand how distractions, particularly cell phone use, affect their driving skills and help them identify strategies they can use to avoid using their cell phone while driving, so they can stay safe on the road.

Understanding Distractions While Driving

Distractions can come in many forms while driving. Food and beverages, music controls, and navigation systems are a few common sources of distraction for young people while driving. Lesson 3 of Plan My Ride teaches young people to identify sources of distractions while behind the wheel, so they are better prepared to take steps to avoid those distractions.

Because cell phones are one of the most common and dangerous sources of distraction for young drivers, Lesson 3 provides in-depth information on the dangers of cell phone use while driving. Some young people may have inaccurate beliefs that texting or cell phone use while driving is an acceptable practice among their peers. Lesson 3 targets these harmful ideas by explaining that most teens report that texting while driving is dangerous. The lesson contains videos of young people explaining their negative experiences or beliefs related to texting and driving. Young people may be less likely to use their cell phone while driving if they believe their peers think it is dangerous.

Young people also learn specific ways that behaviors can distract them mentally, visually, and physically while driving. For example, texting while driving can distract the driver visually by causing them to avert their eyes away from the road, physically by influencing them to take a hand off the wheel to hold their cell phone, and mentally by causing them to focus on the content of a text rather than their driving decisions.

The lesson also covers common misconceptions about distracted driving such as beliefs that hands-free driving technology is not distracting and texting at red lights is a safe driving habit. Young people learn that these behaviors are still distracting and dangerous, and the program explains why they should not attempt them.

The program also allows young people to view their state’s laws related to cell phone use while driving, so they can be aware of what types of distracted driving behaviors are prohibited by law where they live.

Learning Strategies to Avoid Distracted Driving

After teaching young people the types of distracted driving and dangers of it, Lesson 3 highlights specific strategies they can use before and during their drive to avoid driving distracted.

Young people learn to ask themselves if they need to use their phone as a tool while driving in order to determine which strategies to use to avoid distractions. For example, if a driver needs to use their cell phone to navigate to an unknown destination, they should pull up their phone’s navigation system, turn their phone’s volume up, and turn on their phone’s “Do Not Disturb” features before starting the car to avoid using their phone during their drive. Alternatively, if a driver does not need to use their phone as a tool while driving, they should turn their phone on silent and out of reach to avoid becoming distracted by it.

In addition, Lesson 3 describes steps young people can take if they notice that they are currently distracted while driving. Young people learn to stop, take a deep breath, observe their feelings, and make a conscious choice to act safely when they feel themselves becoming distracted.

The lesson takes approximately 30-40 minutes for students to complete. Then, young people complete a brief knowledge-check quiz at the end of Lesson 3 to test their knowledge of the ways they may be distracted while driving and strategies to avoid it. The knowledge-check quiz is designed to promote reflection and retention of information within the program in learners. The number of correct and incorrect answers to the knowledge-check quiz questions can be viewed by teachers or other program administrators to determine if additional instruction or follow-up training is needed to build mastery of the knowledge taught in the program.

If you are interested in offering the Plan My Ride program to young drivers to prevent distracted driving, visit https://planmyride.net/ to learn more and get started.