This Canadian study was conducted to improve understanding of the role of emotional distraction on driving. Thirty participants aged 18 to 30 years completed a driving simulator task while encountering three different types of emotional information: neutral words, negative emotional words, and positive emotional words. Participants completed two practice runs and four separate conditions, one control and one experimental, over the course of one hour. The practice run included a 6.4kms rural drive that consisted of straight roads and winding turns. During this drive, participants encountered four pedestrians crossing the road, three stop signs,
and two traffic lights. For the non-practice runs, participants drove 4.4kms and encountered three pedestrians crossing the road, two stop signs, and two traffic lights. This is in addition to the four conditions they were tested on, which included billboard distraction, the neutral condition (non-emotional words), the negative condition (negative emotional words), and the positive condition (positive emotional words).
Results indicated that there were no differences within the average error rates, with a 1.7% error rate for the neutral condition, 2.5% for the negative condition, and 4.2% for the positive condition. However, findings revealed that drivers were taking their eyes off the road for a longer period of time to process the information on the emotional billboards. This process influenced their ability to remain at the determined speed limit, in addition to influencing their position in the lane. Further, findings suggested that positive billboards have both immediate and lingering effects on driving behaviour and may actually be more detrimental than the effects of negative billboards.
Chan, M., & Singhal, A. (2013). The emotional side of cognitive distraction: Implications for road safety. Accident Analysis & Prevention, 50, 147-154.