Mobility and distraction: researchers and children working together!

Focus on March 2017 Urban planningInnovationRSNBRoad safety

By Alexandra Fort, researcher in cognitive neurosciences and Christophe Jallais, researcher in cognitive psychology at the LESCOT laboratory in the TS2 Department of IFSTTAR

Young citizens were approached in the context of scientific workshops1 on the topic of urban mobility. These creative, collaborative 2 workshops fostered discussions which took a fresh look at distraction and mobility. They allowed us to imagine innovative solutions to meet some of society’s needs.

Distraction and mobility: what action should we take?

To give an example, not being attentive enough to the road environement when driving can have extremely Atelier attention on bouge avec Imaginéo - Droits Sophie Jeannin Ifsttarserious (ONISR, 20153).  For this reason, driver distraction is a crucial question for road safety research, as are its impact on driving skills and possible countermeasures that could be deployed. 

In order to deal with this question, researchers who work on human factors in driving can make use of a large variety of scientific tools ranging from surveys to experiments on driving simulators and on roads. However, the reality is far removed from the popular image of researchers in white coats ensconced in a laboratory. They often need to be in contact with ordinary people in order to adopt a different approach towards their research topic, and to be as responsive as possible to societal demands as well as possible.


Why not try design thinking?

For this, creative, collaborative workshops Atelier attention on bouge avec Imaginéo - Droits Sophie Jeannin Ifsttarcan be set up for the public of all ages. These workshops provide an opportunity to highlight the problems individuals encounter and devise innovative solutions together. Children of eight years and over can also make a significant contribution to the research and innovation processes by sharing their perceptions of day-to-day life and stimulating researchers through their original and creative ideas.

Children were thus invited to take part in design thinking workshops, connected with the research projects being undertaken at LESCOT4. In the course of two afternoons, 24 children (12 girls and 12 boys) of between 9 and 12 years of age, gave their opinions about possible sources of distraction and how they are generated, as well as their impacts on different types of road users and they themselves. With help in this process of scientific creativity from researchers the young road users came up with innovative measures to improve road safety with the potential to make travel safer, more pleasant… and more fun.

What impacts on the children?

These periods of discussion, which focused on various modes of transport, allowed the children to engage in scientific thought about the world of tomorrow by analysing their life experiences. They identified potential stumbling blocks and difficulties in order to come up with possible ways of improving the situations in question. This provided an opportunity for them to develop their capacities and qualities such as empathy, confidence, a critical attitude, collaborative working and autonomy. In addition, the greater understanding resulting from these discussions made them more aware of the dangers caused by distraction.


… and what impacts on the way distraction is approached as a topic?

In response to demand from the European Union concerning interactions between researchers and the public, a report on these workshops will be presented at the International Conference on Driver Distraction and Inattention5. This is an essential event on the topic of distraction which will bring together the scientific, academic communities and some automotive manufacturers and automotive industry suppliers.

The overall conclusion that emerged from these workshops was that, for these children who represent the drivers of tomorrow, prevention and promoting good behaviours seem to be more important than punishment.



Les partenaires de l'Ifsttar :

Mobility and distraction: researchers and children working together! - Ifsttar - Accès au site web de l'association Imagineo
Mobility and distraction: researchers and children working together! - Ifsttar - Accès au site web du la ville de Bron
Mobility and distraction: researchers and children working together! - Ifsttar - Accès au site web de la médiatheque de bron
Mobility and distraction: researchers and children working together! - Ifsttar - Accès au site web du Tube à expérimentations urbaines


Une initiative proposée par le service Promotion et Partage des Savoirs, de la direction scientifique de l'Ifsttar.

Contact :


1The “Attention, on bouge !” workshops were organised in partnership with the librairy of Bron and IFSTTAR’s Department for the Promotion and Pooling of Knowledge (PEPS).

2 The association Imagineo suggested and organized these workshops  on the basis of the design thinking approach.

3 ONISR (2016). La sécurité routière en France - bilan 2015, 179p.
4 IFSTTAR’s Laboratory of Ergonomics and Cognitive Sciences applied to Transport 

5 International Conference on Driver Distraction and Inattention held at IFSTTAR (Marne-la-Vallée) from 20 to 22 March 2017