Blocking-out auditory distracters while driving: A cognitive strategy to reduce task-demands on the road

√únal, A.B., Platteel, S., Steg, L., and Epstude, K.
Accident Analysis and Prevention

This objective of this EU study was to examine how drivers handle task demands induced by listening to talk radio while driving by asking them to perform specific tasks in a driving simulator. There were two different studies that were conducted to investigate the effects of this behaviour on driving. A total of 61 participants, with an average age of 21 years old were included in the two studies. In the first study, participants were required to listen to a 40 minute radio broadcast that consisted of talk-radio excerpts, commercials, and music excerpts, while watching traffic videos on a large screen outside of the simulator. They were asked to recall what they had listened to by answering a variety of questions. The second study required participants to complete both a low-complexity drive and a high-complexity drive of approximately 15-20 minutes in length using the simulator while listening to a talk radio broadcast.

Overall, results indicated that listening to the radio did not impair driving performance. However, results revealed that the participants who drove in Study 2 while listening to the radio recalled less material from the broadcast compared to participants who did not drive in Study 1, but watched videos instead. In addition, participants in Study 2 who drove while listening to the radio recalled less talk-radio excerpts when driving in high-complexity traffic than when driving in low-complexity traffic. Based on these results, the authors suggested that one strategy to help drivers maintain their driving performance is to block talk radio-content.

Reference
√únal, A. B., Platteel, S., Steg, L., & Epstude, K. (2013). Blocking-out auditory distracters while driving: A cognitive strategy to reduce task-demands on the road. Accident Analysis & Prevention, 50, 934-942.