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Accid Anal Prev. 2006 Mar;38(2):415-21. Epub 2005 Nov 28.

Engrossed in conversation: the impact of cell phones on simulated driving performance.

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University of West Florida, Department of Psychology, 11000 University Parkway, Pensacola, FL 32514, USA.


The current study examined the effects of cognitively distracting tasks on various measures of driving performance. Thirty-six college students with a median of 6 years of driving experience completed a driving history questionnaire and four simulated driving scenarios. The distraction tasks consisted of responding to a signal detection task and engaging in a simulated cell phone conversation. Driving performance was measured in terms of four categories of behavior: traffic violations (e.g., speeding, running stop signs), driving maintenance (e.g., standard deviation of lane position), attention lapses (e.g., stops at green lights, failure to visually scan for intersection traffic), and response time (e.g., time to step on brake in response to a pop-up event). Performance was significantly impacted in all four categories when drivers were concurrently talking on a hands-free phone. Performance on the signal detection task was poor and not significantly impacted by the phone task, suggesting that considerably less attention was paid to detecting these peripheral signals. However, the signal detection task did interact with the phone task on measures of average speed, speed variability, attention lapses, and reaction time. The findings lend further empirical support of the dangers of drivers being distracted by cell phone conversations.

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