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Accid Anal Prev. 2003 Jul;35(4):451-7.

The effect of cell phone type on drivers subjective workload during concurrent driving and conversing.

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  • 1Ergonomics Research Group, Department of Human Resources, Health and Workplace Management, Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand.


The effect of three types of cell phones (hand held, hands free with an external speaker and personal hands free) on total subjective workload (including its constituent components; mental demand, physical demand, temporal demand, performance, effort and frustration) and intelligibility was measured using the NASA-task load index (TLX) and the modified rhyme test (MRT), respectively in 13 experienced drivers (nine male, four female, age range 28-65 years), whilst driving on a rural highway. The drivers rated all components of workload for each type of cell phone to be significantly higher than for a control condition in which no cell phone was used. The mean (standard deviation) total workload was lowest for the personal hands free cell phone (7.1(3.65)) and highest for the hands free speaker phone (10.8 (3.63)) (P<0.001). The mean (standard deviation) intelligibility score was highest for the personal hands free cell phone (74.1 (7.9)) and lowest for the hands free speaker phone (55.0 (10.4)) (P<0.001). Frustration was significantly correlated with total workload (0.60, P<0.001) and intelligibility was significantly correlated with frustration (-0.35, P<0.05). Physical demand was not a high contributor to total workload. It is concluded that a personal hands free cell phone would interfere least with the cognitive demands of driving.

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