Any search of the literature will find a plethora of research, recommendations, claims and concerns raised about the issue of driver distraction. Such distraction might come from inside the vehicle (for example a driver interaction with a mobile phone or audio device) or from the highway environment (for example the driver visually attending to an advertisement or a pedestrian). As a general quantification of the size of the problem, Wang, Knipling and Goodman (1996), found that up to 25% of crashes involved some degree of driver distraction. As yet, however, little research has been undertaken to examine how distractions coming from within the vehicle and within the road environment might interact with each other.
In the current research, drivers were tested in the Monash University Accident Research Centre?s advanced driving simulator, examining both within vehicle distraction, and possible distraction caused by visual clutter in the highway environment. The aim was to examine the effects of distraction upon driving performance and subjective responses. A hazard detection task was employed as the main experimental measure, whereby the effects of distraction were assessed in terms of drivers? reactions to pedestrian and other hazards in the roadway. Measures of perceived workload and overall driving performance measures were also analysed.
Overall, the experiment found that the in-car distraction tasks degraded overall driving performance, degraded responses to hazards and increased subjective workload. The performance decrements that occurred as a result of distraction were observed in both the simple and complex highway environments and for drivers in different age groups. The results will be fully discussed in the conference presentation.