ARSRPE Conference Paper Database

Can You Talk and Drive Safely at the Same Time? An examination of gender differences in driving performance of young drivers observed whilst conversing with a passenger or on a mobile phone.

Irwin, Julia, Chekaluk, Eugene (Peer reviewed)

Young Drivers


Crash risk of young drivers is affected by the presence of passengers and by mobile phone use. We asked whether conversing is the primary cause of both these types of distraction for young drivers. Through the use of confederates, we examined the driving performance of young male and female drivers (aged 18-25) on a driving simulator as they conversed either with a ?passenger? or with an unexpected ?caller? on the driver?s own mobile phone. In another two conditions the driver merely listened to the conversation between two ?passengers?, or else they carried a silent ?passenger?. Males and females show a quite different pattern of responses to these sources of distraction. As might be expected, the number of driving errors committed by the female drivers increased whilst they were engaged in conversation on their mobile phone, but talking to a passenger produced no more errors than did driving in either of the two non-conversing conditions. In contrast, the male drivers not only made fewer errors whilst talking on the mobile phone than they did whilst conversing with a passenger, they also made fewer errors whilst conversing on the mobile phone than they did in either of the two conditions in which they were not required to talk. Results highlight a need to obtain a better understanding of the apparent gender specificity of some sources of distraction for young drivers with a view to better targeting safety messages to this at-risk group of drivers.