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.
Ünal, 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.