Distracted Driving

STEP 1: Watch “Distracted Driving: One Call Can Change Everything” video.

STEP 2: Review the Research Summary.

Research on Distracted Driving

In a 2008 study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, researchers Drews, Pasupathi, and Strayer examined the effects of talking on a cell phone while driving. Pairs of friends signed up for the experiment. Within each pair, one person was randomly assigned the role of “driver” and the other the role of “conversation partner.”

Participants assigned the role of “driver” were placed in a driving simulator. The simulator was designed to replicate the inside of an actual car. However, instead of regular windows and a windshield, high-fidelity graphics presented a simulated highway, including multiple lanes, overpasses, and on-and off-ramps. The graphics included other cars on the highway that could change speed or lanes, or try to pass other cars, thus requiring the driver to attend not only to the roadway but also the surrounding traffic. The driver’s task was to safely navigate to a rest area, where the driver should exit the highway. The rest area was located about 8 miles from the start of the drive, requiring about 10 minutes of driving time.

The driver completed the navigation task while simultaneously holding a conversation with the conversation partner. The conversation was about a close-call story that had not been previously shared. For example, a friend might share a close-call story about almost being caught cheating on an exam, or almost being hit by a car while on a bicycle. The conversation partner knew the driver also had a task of exiting the highway when arriving at a rest area.

By random assignment, half of the pairs held the conversation in-person, with the conversation partner seated as a passenger in the car (“passenger” condition). The other half of participants held the conversation via cell phone, with the conversation partner in a different location from the driver. In addition, all drivers also completed the driving task while not holding a conversation to provide a baseline measure of performance on the task. Order of the two tasks (while holding a conversation or while only driving) was counterbalanced across participants. During the driving task, a number of measures were collected to assess driving performance.

The figure below presents the main findings from the study.

figure shows that passenger conversation yield higher accuracy than cellphone conversations

Figure 1.1 Percent of participants in each group successfully completing navigation task (exiting at the correct location) while conversing.

Data adapted from: Drews, F.A., Pasupathi, M., & Strayer, D.L. (2008). Passenger and cell phone conversations in simulated driving. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, 14, 392-400.

STEP 3: In your discussion post this week, first answer the following questions based on the study described in Step 2:

Based on the Research Summary on Distracted Driving:

What was the research question that guided the work by Drews, et al.? What was their hypothesis (specific prediction) – state using “If-Then” statement?
The Independent Variables (IV) is/are:
The Dependent Variable (DV) is/are:

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