Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Drivers Distracted More By Cell Phones Than By Passengers

Date:
December 1, 2008
Source:
American Psychological Association
Summary:
Drivers are far more distracted by talking on a cellular phone than by conversing with a passenger in an automobile, according to a new study. The study, which used a sophisticated driving simulator, found that when drivers talk on a cell phone, they drift out of their lanes and missed exits more frequently than drivers conversing with a passenger. Passengers react to traffic, unlike a person at the other end of a cell phone conversation.

University of Utah psychology graduate students Russ Costa and Janelle Seegmiller demonstrate the driver and passenger roles used by participants in a study of how drivers are affected by conversations with passengers versus conversations over a cell phone. The study, which used the sophisticated driving simulator shown in the photo, found that when drivers talk on cell phones, they are more likely to drift out of their lane and miss exits.
Credit: Nate Medeiros-Ward

Drivers make more mistakes when talking on a cell phone than when talking to passengers, new research shows.

Related Articles


This finding addresses the common question about whether driver distraction comes from cell-phone use specifically or conversation generally.

Even when drivers used a hands-free cell phone, driving performance was significantly compromised. "Cell phone and passenger conversation differ in their impact on a driver's performance; these differences are apparent at the operational, tactical, and strategic levels of performance," the researchers wrote.

The study, led by Frank Drews, PhD, of the University of Utah, analyzed the driving performance of 41 mostly young adult drivers paired with 41 friends who served as conversation partners. Both sexes were equally represented.

In each of three experimental conditions (conversation with hands-free cell phone, conversation in the car, or no conversation), one person in each pair was randomly selected to be the "driver" and the other the conversation partner.

Drivers used a sophisticated simulator that presented a 24-mile multilane highway with on- and off-ramps, overpasses and two-lane traffic in each direction. Participants drove under an irregular-flow condition that mimics real highway conditions -- with other vehicles, in compliance with traffic laws, changing lanes and speeds. This context required "drivers" to pay attention to surrounding traffic.

In the cell-phone conversation condition, drivers' conversation partners were at another location. In the in-car conversation condition, partners sat next to their (simulated) drivers. In both cases, conversation partners were told to tell one another a previously undisclosed "close call" story about a time their lives were threatened.

All drivers were instructed to leave the simulated highway once they arrived at a rest area about eight miles from the starting point. Partners were told the driver had this task. The driving sequences took about 10 minutes to finish.

Drivers talking by cell phone drove significantly worse than drivers talking to passengers. The cell-phone users were more likely to drift in their lane, kept a greater distance between their car and the car in front, and were four times more likely to miss pulling off the highway at the rest area. Passenger conversation barely affected all three measures.

The authors said the problems could have stemmed from inattention "blindness," or insufficient processing of information from the driving environment. Cell-phone users may also have found it harder to hold in working memory the intent to exit at the rest area.

Conversation analyses revealed some interesting patterns, according to the researchers. When driving tasks got more complicated, drivers appeared to modulate the complexity of their speech, as measured by syllables-per-word. Drivers also talked more when using cell phones, perhaps, the authors speculated, because they were trying to control the conversation to avoid using the mental resources required to really listen to the other person.

Meanwhile, passengers took an active role in supporting the driver, often talking about surrounding traffic. That shared situational awareness could be helpful to the driver.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by American Psychological Association. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Frank A. Drews, PhD, Monisha Pasupathi, PhD, and David L. Strayer, PhD. Passenger and Cell Phone Conversations in Simulated Driving. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, Vol. 14, No. 4

Cite This Page:

American Psychological Association. "Drivers Distracted More By Cell Phones Than By Passengers." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 1 December 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/12/081201081917.htm>.
American Psychological Association. (2008, December 1). Drivers Distracted More By Cell Phones Than By Passengers. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/12/081201081917.htm
American Psychological Association. "Drivers Distracted More By Cell Phones Than By Passengers." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/12/081201081917.htm (accessed December 21, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Mind & Brain News

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Researchers Test Colombian Village With High Alzheimer's Rates

Researchers Test Colombian Village With High Alzheimer's Rates

AFP (Dec. 19, 2014) In Yarumal, a village in N. Colombia, Alzheimer's has ravaged a disproportionately large number of families. A genetic "curse" that may pave the way for research on how to treat the disease that claims a new victim every four seconds. Duration: 02:42 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Double-Amputee Becomes First To Move Two Prosthetic Arms With His Mind

Double-Amputee Becomes First To Move Two Prosthetic Arms With His Mind

Buzz60 (Dec. 19, 2014) A double-amputee makes history by becoming the first person to wear and operate two prosthetic arms using only his mind. Jen Markham has the story. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Prenatal Exposure To Pollution Might Increase Autism Risk

Prenatal Exposure To Pollution Might Increase Autism Risk

Newsy (Dec. 18, 2014) Harvard researchers found children whose mothers were exposed to high pollution levels in the third trimester were twice as likely to develop autism. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Yoga Could Be As Beneficial For The Heart As Walking, Biking

Yoga Could Be As Beneficial For The Heart As Walking, Biking

Newsy (Dec. 17, 2014) Yoga can help your weight, blood pressure, cholesterol and heart just as much as biking and walking does, a new study suggests. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins