Minimizing Driver Errors: Detecting Unexpected Targets In Familiar Environments

Talking on a cell phone can impair driving performance (e.g., Stayer & Drews, 2007), but the specifics of when common attentional resources are needed are not fully understood. The authors examined the effects of varying the visual attention load of the driving task by manipulating familiarity with the driving environment and presence of attention demanding driving elements (pedestrians and crosswalks). To vary familiarity with the driving environment, participants completed six runs through the same driving environment in a driving simulator. To vary attention to driving elements, there were two crosswalks with pedestrians on the side of or in the road. Half of the participants left voicemail messages on a new topic on each run (e.g., Talk about the classes your taking this semester, Talk about your favorite TV show or recent book you read) using a hands-free headset, while the other half drove in silence. In order to determine the effects of the visual attention demanding events on driving for participants who left voicemails versus those that did not, the authors measured velocity and steering deviation across four critical sections (45-30, 30-15, and, 15-0 meters before the crosswalks, and 0-15 meters after the crosswalks) of the last four driving runs. Leaving a voicemail increased steering deviation and velocity. However, the size of these effects decreased for the later runs, and was largest close to the crosswalks. This suggests that as more attention is needed in the visual environment, because the environment is less familiar and/or there are critical visual targets to attend to (pedestrians), leaving a voicemail leads to more erratic driving behavior (faster and more steering deviation). These results demonstrate that leaving a voicemail requires attentional resources and can impair driving performance. These effects are larger in unfamiliar driving environments that require a lot of attention (near crosswalks or in heavy traffic or construction zones). Therefore, training, driving laws, and cell phone/car design could be modified to reduce talking on a cell phone under these conditions.


  • English

Media Info

  • Media Type: Digital/other
  • Edition: Final Report
  • Features: Figures; Photos; References; Tables;
  • Pagination: 25p

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01667166
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Contract Numbers: NTC2015-SU-R-05
  • Created Date: Mar 13 2018 10:01AM