Driver Performance While Texting: Even a Little is Too Much

This article reports on a study undertaken to examine the impact of text messaging and other in-car behaviors on driving performance under simple and naturalistic road conditions in a driving simulator. Data from 28 healthy individuals (12 female) are presented. Participant age ranged from 18 to 28 years (mean = 21.0). Average driving experience was 3.8 years (SD = 2.5). Participants completed a baseline loop condition in which they drove normally through a realistic virtual environment. Next, participants drove an identical loop, and at 3 specified points during this drive, participants were required to (1) complete a radio-tuning task; (2) type and send a text message containing “Drexel University”; and (3) type and send “I am driving to the store.” Driving performance and task duration was compared between conditions. Across all tasks, both lane management and velocity varied significantly more while task-engaged. Average lane deviation was significantly greater during a text messaging task than during the baseline drive of the same road segment. Comparison of task durations indicated that both texting tasks took significantly longer to complete than the radio task, with the “Drexel University” text (118 s) taking almost twice as long as the radio-tuning task (60 s). Unexpected and novel findings emerged in the evaluation of duration of texting tasks using the varying text-entry methods, with touch-screen modality taking significantly longer than others. The authors conclude that engaging in secondary tasks while operating a motor vehicle may have deleterious effects on driving performance and increase risk, even under the simplest of driving conditions. Text messaging may constitute a “perfect storm” of risk compared to other in-vehicle tasks such as tuning the car radio. The current investigation demonstrated detrimental effects of text messaging on driving behaviors such as lane maintenance, speed maintenance, and shifts of attention, even under relatively ideal and naturalistic driving conditions (e.g., familiar route, good weather, no traffic).


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  • Accession Number: 01483885
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: Jun 14 2013 9:34AM