Conference Proceeding

How Common In-Car Distractions Affect Driving Performance in Simple and Complex Road Environments

  • Robert Nowosielski (University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario, Canada)
  • Kathleen M Trick (University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario, Canada)


Distracted driving (driving while performing a secondary task) is the cause of many collisions. Although the research has stressed the deleterious effects of distraction, there may be situations where distraction improves driving performance. Boredom is associated with collision risk, and it is possible that some types of secondary task may combat boredom on simple monotonous drives. In this study, licensed drivers were tested in a driving simulator (a car body surrounded by screens) that simulated simple or complex roads. Road complexity was manipulated by increasing traffic, scenery, and the number of curves in the drive. Participants either drove (single task), or they drove while listening to an audiobook or having a hands-free cellular phone conversation. Driving performance was measured in terms of speed, standard deviation of speed, standard deviation of lateral position (SDLP), and hazard response times. Task condition and road complexity had no significant effect on driving speed or standard deviation of speed. There was a trend to greater SDLP on the simple drives, where there was little oncoming traffic, though this was only statistically significant in the Audiobook condition. However, there was also evidence that audiobooks could be beneficial. On simple roads, drivers listening to audiobooks had significantly faster hazard response times that those that were driving (single task) or driving while having a hands-free conversation, though this pattern of response was not evident on complex drives. These results suggest that audiobooks could play a role in helping drivers stay focused on monotonous drives.

How to Cite:

Nowosielski, R. & Trick, K., (2017) “How Common In-Car Distractions Affect Driving Performance in Simple and Complex Road Environments”, Driving Assessment Conference 9(2017), 248-255. doi:

Rights: Copyright © 2017 the author(s)

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Published on
28 Jun 2017
Peer Reviewed