Research Reports

Driving Performance During Cell Phone Conversations and Common In-Vehicle Tasks While Sober and Drunk

Principal Investigator:

Mick Rakauskas, Nic Ward

October 2005

Report no. Mn/DOT 2005-41

Projects: Design and Safety Implications for ATIS Use with Cell Phones

Topics: Driver Performance and Behavior, Safety

The crash risk associated with cell phone use while driving is a contentious issue. Many states are introducing Advanced Traveler Information Systems (ATIS) that may be accessed with cell phones while driving (e.g. 511 Traveler Information Services). In these contexts, there is a need for relevant research to determine the risk of cell phone use. This study compared driver performance while conversing on a hands-free cell phone to conditions of operating common in-vehicle controls (e.g., radio, fan, air conditioning) and alcohol intoxication (BAC 0.08). In addition, the study examined the combined effects of being distracted and being intoxicated given that there may be a higher risk of a crash if the driver engages in a combination of risk factors. During simulated traffic scenarios, resource allocation was assessed through behavioral measures and an event-related potential (ERP) novelty oddball paradigm. The results indicated that during a car following scenario, drivers engaged in the conversations or completing in-vehicle tasks were more impaired than drivers that were not involved in any distraction task. Indeed, both the cell phone and in-vehicle sources of distraction were generally more impairing than intoxication at the legal limit. These results will be used in a follow up study in order to compare the effects on attention of driving and using 511 to distraction from these tested distractions.

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