The Relationship between Cell Phone Use and Management of Driver Fatigue: It's Complicated

Voice communication may enhance performance during monotonous, potentially fatiguing driving conditions (Atchley & Chan, 2011); however, it is unclear whether safety benefits of conversation are outweighed by costs. The present study tested whether personalized conversations intended to simulate hands-free cell phone conversation may counter objective and subjective fatigue effects elicited by vehicle automation. A passive fatigue state (Desmond & Hancock, 2001), characterized by disengagement from the task, was induced using full vehicle automation prior to drivers resuming full control over the driving simulator. A conversation was initiated shortly after reversion to manual control. During the conversation an emergency event occurred. The fatigue manipulation produced greater task disengagement and slower response to the emergency event, relative to a control condition. Conversation did not mitigate passive fatigue effects; rather, it added worry about matters unrelated to the driving task. Conversation moderately improved vehicle control, as measured by SDLP, but it failed to counter fatigue-induced slowing of braking in response to an emergency event. Finally, conversation appeared to have a hidden danger in that it reduced drivers' insights into performance impairments when in a state of passive fatigue. Automation induced passive fatigue, indicated by loss of task engagement; yet, simulated cell phone conversation did not counter the subjective automation-induced fatigue. Conversation also failed to counter objective loss of performance (slower braking speed) resulting from automation. Cell phone conversation in passive fatigue states may impair drivers' awareness of their performance deficits. Results suggest that conversation, even using a hands-free device, may not be a safe way to reduce fatigue and increase alertness during transitions from automated to manual vehicle control.


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  • Accession Number: 01635963
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: May 26 2017 9:08AM