Effect of external distractions: Behavior and vehicle control of novice and experienced drivers evaluated

Divekar, G.; Pradhan A.K.; Pollatsek, A.; Fisher, D.L.
Transportation Research Board

This study was designed to explore the effect of external distractions on novice and experienced drivers. In this simulator study, eye movements of participants and measures of the vehicle, such as lane position and speed, were collected to gauge the level of distraction posed by external factors, such as video billboards, posed to novice and experienced drivers. The objectives of this study were to discover why experienced drivers took long glances at an external distraction (e.g., looking at a billboard) but did not do so when a secondary task arose inside the vehicle. In addition, the study aimed to determine if by sacrificing some of their ability to monitor visible hazards in the roadway ahead, experienced drivers also sacrificed even more of their ability to anticipate unseen hazards.

Results showed that long glances by both experienced and novice drivers came at the cost of identifying potential hidden hazards and seeing exposed moving threats. In particular, novice and experienced drivers took an equally large percentage of long glances away from the forward roadway to perform external tasks. However, distraction by external task did not impede the ability of experience drivers to maintain lane position and speed. These findings were consistent with previous research suggesting that experienced drivers can use their peripheral vision to maintain lane position and speed. Conversely, distraction by external task impeded the ability of novice drivers to maintain lane position and speed. In summary, this study showed that the presence of hazardous conditions in conjunction with external tasks significantly affects the performance of both novice and experienced drivers and their ability to maintain speed and lane position while driving. It demonstrated that out-of-vehicle glances to external features such as road way signs and billboards were indeed distractions to both young and experienced drivers. It was suggested that training programs which specifically target the abilities of drivers to manage these external distractions be developed. It is currently unknown what factors should be included in such a training program and more research into this topic is required.

Divekar, G., Pradhan, A., Pollatsek, A., & Fisher, D. (2012). Effect of external distractions: Behavior and vehicle control of novice and experienced drivers evaluated. Transportation Research Record: Journal of the Transportation Research Board, (2321), 15-22.