How Does Distraction Affect You?

This lesson will help students understand how distractions can impact driving.


  • Participate in collaborative discussions
  • Express an opinion and provide supporting detail
  • Present facts and findings

Students will be able to:

  • Participate in collaborative discussions in small and large groups about distraction and driving.
  • Conduct research and present research findings and evidence to add to whole- and small-group discussions.

Large paper, markers, materials for distractions (prepackaged granola bars, cell phones, etc.)

Introduction (5-7 minutes)
Post large paper around the room. Divide students into groups of 3-5 and station each group of students at a piece of paper. Assign a recorder for each team. Instruct students that they have two minutes to write down as many things that distract people as they can think of.

When students have finished, explain that there are various ways that our attention can be taken off a task. We might look away from what we're doing (visual distraction), we may start working with something else (manual distraction), our mind may wander (cognitive distraction), or a distraction may include visual, manual, and cognitive elements.

Have students revisit their lists and categorize each distraction as V (visual), M (manual), C (cognitive), or more than one.

Whole Group (5-10 minutes)
As a class, discuss: How much do distractions affect your ability to do a task? Is it possible to do two things well at the same time?

Small Group (20-25 minutes)
Divide students into groups of three. In groups, students will perform a simple task (i.e., putting together a pen, counting the number of jelly beans in a handful, or playing a memory game on the computer). One at a time, a student will do the task without being distracted. Another student will time him or her and record the time. After students have each completed the task, students will redo the same activity while completing a distraction at the same time. Students will choose one of a few distractions: having a side conversation, looking away, opening a prepackaged granola bar, or writing a short text. As they are performing the task with distraction, they will be timed and their time will be recorded.



Time Without Distraction

Time With Distraction





Conclusion (5-7 minutes)
Review what students learned during this activity by asking: 

  • How does this demonstration parallel what happens during distracted driving?
  • What misconceptions do people have about distracted driving?
  • Why is it important to develop safe driving habits as you're learning to drive?

Have students choose one distraction and calculate how much time it would take to complete that activity (i.e., unwrapping a hamburger, writing a 100-character text). Then, have students calculate how far they would travel while doing that task at speeds of 30, 45, and 60 mph in that length of time. As a class, compile data on a variety of distractions and analyze the data.

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