Risky driving is a significant contributor to road traffic crashes, especially in young drivers. Transient mind wandering states, an internal form of distraction, are associated with faster driving, reduced headway distance, slower response times, reduced driver vigilance, and increased crash risk. It is unclear whether a trait tendency to mind wander predicts risky driving, however. Mind wandering is also associated with poor executive control, but whether this capacity moderates the putative link between mind wandering tendency and risky driving is uncertain. The present study tested whether mind wandering tendency predicts risky driving behaviour in young male drivers aged 18-21 (N=30) and whether this relationship is mediated by driver vigilance and moderated by executive control capacity. Mind wandering was measured with the Sustained Attention to Response Task (SART) and the Daydreaming Frequency Scale (DDFS). Risky driving was assessed by mean speed in a driving simulator and driver vigilance was quantified by horizontal eye movements measured with eye tracking. Results showed that greater mind wandering tendency based on SART performance significantly predicts faster mean speed, confirming the main hypothesis. Neither driver vigilance mediated nor executive control capacity moderated this relationship as hypothesized. These findings speak to the complexity of individual differences in mind wandering. Overall, mind wandering tendency is a significant marker of risky driving in young drivers, which could guide the development of targeted interventions.
Keywords: Distracted driving; Executive control; Individual differences; Mind wandering; Vigilance.
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