What researchers are doing to tackle distracted driving

February 22, 2018 marked one year since The Risk Institute embarked on a nationwide initiative to predict and curb distracted driving behaviors.

To celebrate our achievements over the last year and to reinvigorate our efforts, we hosted about 100 members of the initiative for an anniversary event. 10TV wrote a great piece about the work we’ve been doing.

We welcomed Fletcher Cleaves, a former collegiate athlete who is now paralyzed from the mid-chest down after a distracted driving crash several years ago; Maria’s Message, who is providing the awareness and reach for the initiative as we work together to create a research-based driver’s education curriculum; and students from Olentangy High School who we worked with to do some innovative research into driver habits and training.

If you want to get involved with the distracted driving initiative at The Risk Institute, reach out to us at riskinstitute@fisher.osu.edu.

Is our word choice causing more car wrecks?

It’s a car crash, not an accident. That’s the message coming from behavioral researchers partnered with The Risk Institute Distracted Driving Initiative at The Ohio State University Fisher College of Business, who recommend that people need to stop using the word “accident” when comes to distracted driving crashes, as well as several other behavioral recommendations.

“One of the keys to curbing distracted driving fatalities and crashes is to change behavior and attitudes towards driving while distracted,” said Stacey Emert, partner at InAlign Partners and lead of the initiative’s behavior team. “One of the most effective methods is called social norming. This is essentially the collective thought about a behavior. Over the last 50 years, we’ve successfully flipped the collective thought on smoking, drunk driving, and child safety seats. We need to flip the collective mindset on distracted driving. We do this in part by changing the language we use: distracted driving accidents become crashes. You wouldn’t call a plane crash a plane accident.”

The Distracted Driving Initiative at The Risk Institute at is a nationwide endeavor comprised of dozens of companies, government entities, and researchers seeking to combine key partnerships, critical research, and leading-edge technology to predict and curb distracted driving behaviors.

“Unfortunately, people make choices that harm their ability to drive, like driving drunk, and so many traffic deaths could’ve been prevented if people stayed off the roads when drunk,” says Brittany Shoots-Reinhard, a psychology researcher at The Ohio State University. “In the 1980s, people were resistant to laws against drinking and driving, but now, we don’t drive drunk or let our friends drive drunk, either.”

The number of fatal traffic accidents rose 7.2 percent nationally in 2015 according to the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration. It is the greatest year-over-year increase since 1966. Distracted driving was a factor in about 10 percent of auto deaths; the exact percentage is difficult to determine due to privacy rules and other factors.

“We can change the norms about distracted driving, too. These crashes are entirely preventable; at Ohio State, we’re working together to figure out how to help people not drive distracted”,” said Shoots-Reinhard.

The Risk Institute at The Ohio State University Fisher College of Business brings together practitioners and researchers to engage in risk-centered conversations and to exchange ideas and strategies on integrated risk management. Through the collaboration of faculty, students and risk management professionals, The Risk Institute addresses risk at a broad cross section of industries and is dedicated to developing leading-edge approaches to risk management.

The Distracted Driving Initiative at the Risk Institute began in February 2017. Industry partners involved with the project are Honda Inc., Aon Benfield, Nationwide, NiSource, Ford, Motorists Insurance, DHL, State Auto, Freer Logic, TrueNorth, and others. Representing the legal and governmental branches are the Ohio Attorney General’s Office and the Ohio Department of Public Safety. Ohio-based Root Insurance, Smart Drive, Greenroad, and eDriving Fleet make up the technology voices in the conversation. A dozen researchers and thought leaders from OSU representing behavioral science, engineering, automotive research, risk and others make up the research arm of the initiative.