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Modern day driving continues to burgeon with attention detractors found inside and outside drivers' vehicles (e.g. cell phones, other road users, etc.). This study explores a regularly disregarded attention detractor experienced by drivers: self-regulation. Results suggest self-regulation and WMC has the potential to affect attentional control, producing maladaptive changes in driving performance in maximum speed, acceleration, and time headway.
Previous literature was reviewed in an effort to further investigate the link between notification levels of a cell phone and their effects on driver distraction. Mind-wandering has been suggested as an explanation for distraction and has been previously operationalized with oculomotor movement. Mind-wandering’s definition is debated, but in this research it was defined as off task thoughts that occur due to the task not requiring full cognitive capacity. Drivers were asked to operate a driving simulator and follow audio turn by turn directions while experiencing each of three cell phone notification levels: Control (no texts), Airplane (texts with no notifications), and Ringer (audio notifications). Measures of Brake Reaction Time, Headway Variability, and Average Speed were used to operationalize driver distraction. Drivers experienced higher Brake Reaction Time and Headway Variability with a lower Average Speed in both experimental conditions when compared to the Control Condition. This is consistent with previous research in the field of implying a distracted state. Oculomotor movement was measured as the percent time the participant was looking at the road. There was no significant difference between the conditions in this measure. The results of this research indicate that not, while not interacting with a cell phone, no audio notification is required to induce a state of distraction. This phenomenon was unable to be linked to mind-wandering.
While various collision warning studies in driving have been conducted, only a handful of studies have investigated the effectiveness of warnings with a distracted driver. Across four experiments, the present study aimed to understand the apparent gap in the literature of distracted drivers and warning effectiveness, specifically by studying various warnings presented to drivers while they were operating a smart phone. Experiment One attempted to understand which smart phone tasks, (text vs image) or (self-paced vs other-paced) are the most distracting to a driver. Experiment Two compared the effectiveness of different smartphone based applications (app’s) for mitigating driver distraction. Experiment Three investigated the effects of informative auditory and tactile warnings which were designed to convey directional information to a distracted driver (moving towards or away). Lastly, Experiment Four extended the research into the area of autonomous driving by investigating the effectiveness of different auditory take-over request signals. Novel to both Experiment Three and Four was that the warnings were delivered from the source of the distraction (i.e., by either the sound triggered at the smart phone location or through a vibration given on the wrist of the hand holding the smart phone). This warning placement was an attempt to break the driver’s attentional focus on their smart phone and understand how to best re-orient the driver in order to improve the driver’s situational awareness (SA). The overall goal was to explore these novel methods of improved SA so drivers may more quickly and appropriately respond to a critical event.