Celebrate My Drive
Ridgedale Center, September 15, 2012
Distraction Dodger is an online game designed to help teens and young adults understand the importance of concentrating on driving.
As a game player, you will get behind the wheel of a mobile pizza delivery vehicle in the pizza-loving city of Little Moots, where people buy pizzas the way people in other cities hail a cab: they go to the street corner, upload their order, and wait for the first pizza truck that arrives with a fresh pie. To help build a successful pizza business, you have a variety of tools at your disposal—a smartphone, social media, GPS, and earned vehicle upgrades. But the roads are hazardous, and you will need to focus to avoid obstacles and obey traffic laws to prevent tickets, damage to your vehicle, and life-threatening crashes.
As you progress through the game’s levels, you'll get feedback on your driving—and how it is affected by your level of distraction.
You have a limited amount of cognitive and physical resources available to you at any given time. Distracted driving is the result of allocating these resources to tasks other than the primary task of driving. If you are trying to do too many tasks at once, the amount of attention you will be able to give any one thing is limited. Your performance on each task decreases as more are added.
Not all distracting tasks distract equally. Some things you might do while driving, like drinking a soda or listening to music, don’t seem to be distracting, but anything that takes attention away from your driving creates an unsafe situation. Tasks that involve multiple senses, such as sending a text message, require greater attention and are especially dangerous while driving.
Objects or events both inside and outside a vehicle can be distracting. In Distraction Dodger, you must balance using your cell phone and GPS, eating, waving to friends, and battling giant flies outside your vehicle—all of which are potential distractions to your driving. While the tools available to you are tempting because they seem like they'll help you deliver more pizzas and thus make more money, in reality they make it more difficult, if not impossible, to drive safely. In real life you probably won’t be shooting pizzas at people or running down giant flies, but the message is the same: to be safe, you have to pay attention to your driving, not to the distractions around you.
At the end of each level of play in Distraction Dodger, you will be able to review your driving behaviors. Tables will show the distracting tools used and activities performed in that level of play, as well as their consequences, to help you understand how distractions affect your driving. (The figures and percentages provided in these feedback sessions represent general estimates only and should not be considered factual.)
Cognitive psychologists such as those with the HumanFIRST Program design experiments and use tools to test hypotheses, develop theories, and ultimately identify ways to help people drive more safely. If you’d like to learn more, explore the ITS Institute and HumanFIRST websites. If you’re in high school, you may be interested in visiting the U of M for a tour of our labs or attending a summer camp on technology. If you’re a University of Minnesota student (or you’re thinking about becoming one), visit the Education section of this site for information on our course offerings and seminars.