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Friday, May 11, 2012

Killer Apps and Social Media

A recent survey of young drivers in Great Britain came up with some frightening findings for young drivers. Ingenie, a company that provides insurance to young drivers surveyed one thousand drivers between the ages of 17 to 25 about their driving habits. While the survey looked at young British drivers, the results are probably very close to what would be experienced by American drivers in the same age group.

Here are some of the findings from the survey:

  • 44% said they had sent a text message, and 62% said they had read a message while they were driving
  • 1 in 6 male drivers under 25 have crashed due to cell phone usage at the wheel
  • One third of under 25s who use Facebook on their phone admitted to using it while driving
  • 18% of under 25s who have Draw Something on their phone have played the game while driving – 17% for Angry Birds
  • Hands-free cell phones encourage 53% more young drivers to make longer calls at the wheel (longer than 5 minutes)

The results of the survey show that, in spite of all the efforts to get out the word on the dangers of distracted driving, young drivers continue to believe that they are immune from danger. The dangers of texting have been known for years however not a lot of attention has been given to the fact that young drivers may be playing games while they drive.

The gaming app "Draw Something" is a social gaming app for two players. It requires the drawer to draw a picture based on random words selected by the computer. The words are ranked on the level of difficulty based on the drawing required to convey that word. As the drawer draws a picture, the guesser is shown the picture as it is created, stroke by stroke. The faster the guesser can guess the word, the more points are won. Any person trying to play this game while driving may as well place a hood over their head.

Driving requires three separate skill sets:

Visual – watching the road ahead and behind to steer and avoid hazards,
 Mechanical – using the hands and feet to steer and operate the pedals, and
Cognitive – using the mind to interpret all the data that is being seen and experienced to navigate and avoid hazards.

Playing games on a smart phone requires the exact same three skill sets. The brain is only capable of doing one thing well at a time so, when those skill sets are being used for a frivolous game, they can’t be used for the concentration required in the life threatening driving environment. The same goes for texting or staying connected through Facebook.

There are apps that can be beneficial to young drivers. Parents of young drivers should seriously consider any one of a number of apps or devices installed in the vehicle that disables their teen’s phone for anything other than 911 calls.

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