EMF Health-effects Research

Cognitive load and detection thresholds in car following situations: safety implications for using mobile (cellular) telephones while driving.

Lamble D, Kauranen T, Laakso M, Summala H

Accid Anal Pre ;31(6):617-623, 1999

This study was aimed at investigating drivers' ability to detect a car ahead decelerating, while doing mobile phone related tasks. Nineteen participants aged between 20 and 29 years, (2000-125000 km driving experience) drove at 80 km/h, 50 m behind a lead car, on a 30 km section of motorway in normal traffic.

During each trial the lead car started to decelerate at an average of 0.47 m/s2 while the participant either looked at the car in front (control), continuously dialed series of three random integers on a numeric keypad (divided visual attention), or performed a memory and addition task (non-visual attention).

The results indicated that drivers' detection ability was impaired by about 0.5 s in terms of brake reaction time and almost 1 s in terms of time-to-collision, when they were doing the non-visual task whilst driving. This impairment was similar to when the drivers were dividing their visual attention between the road ahead and dialing numbers on the keypad.

It was concluded that neither a hands-free option nor a voice controlled interface removes the safety problems associated with the use of mobile phones in a car.

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