Researchers in the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering at Texas A&M University are studying ways to make driving safer using new technologies. Dr. Thomas Ferris, an assistant professor, says "Humans are not very good at problem-solving when the vehicle does something they aren't expecting, especially when under high stress, high workloads or while multi-tasking." With finals week approaching, you might want to consider how it can affect the driving habits of those around you on the road.
Types of distractions
Typically, when people talk about distracted driving, the concern is electronics or texting. In Pennsylvania, the law prohibits texting while driving, but many other types of distracted driving can cause accidents.
- Visual distractions: Drivers take their eyes off the road to, for example, look at a GPS, rubberneck or change the radio station.
- Manual distractions: Drivers take their hands off the wheel to, for example, groom, drink or eat in the car or adjust the radio.
- Cognitive distractions: Drivers take their mind off driving to, for instance, talk to other passengers, have an argument or think about problems.
Finals week is a stressful time. It is all too easy to get behind the wheel and go on autopilot, which is a distraction in itself. More students self-medicate with alcohol or nicotine during this time to minimize their stress. There are no studies about whether more vehicle accidents occur during finals week, but the potential is there.
Be careful on the road
If you are driving during finals weeks, be aware of other drivers who might be distracted. Serious accidents can occur anytime, but the worries of upcoming tests and grades can increase the distractions of a college student. If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident, you should consider speaking to an experienced personal injury attorney about your situation before settling with the insurance company.