In-car safety

Title: Mitigating the effects of in-vehicle distractions through use of the Psychological Refractory Period paradigm

Organisation: University of Leeds (Institute for Transport Studies)
Date uploaded: 11th September 2013
Date published/launched: January 2013

This study shows that brake reaction time significantly increases when drivers are distracted by in-vehicle tasks.

Modern driving involves frequent and potentially detrimental interactions with distracting in-vehicle tasks.

Distraction has been shown to slow brake reaction time and decrease lateral and longitudinal vehicle control. It is likely that these negative effects will become more prevalent in the future as advances are made in the functionality, availability, and number of in-vehicle systems.

This paper addresses this problem by considering ways to manage in-vehicle task presentation to mitigate their distracting effects.

A driving simulator experiment using 48 participants was performed to investigate the existence of the Psychological Refractory Period in the driving context and its effect on braking performance. Drivers were exposed to lead vehicle braking events in isolation (single-task) and with a preceding surrogate in-vehicle task (dual-task). In dual-task scenarios, the time interval between the in-vehicle and braking tasks was manipulated.

Summary of findings
Brake reaction time increased when drivers were distracted. The in-vehicle task interfered with the performance of the braking task in a manner that was dependent on the interval between the two tasks, with slower reactions following a shorter inter-task interval. This is the Psychological Refractory Period effect.

These results have implications for driver safety during in-vehicle distraction. The findings are used to develop recommendations regarding the timing of in-vehicle task presentation so as to reduce their potentially damaging effects on braking performance. In future, these guidelines could be incorporated into a driver workload management system to minimise the opportunity for a driver to be distracted from the ongoing driving task.

For more information contact:
Professor Oliver Carsten
T: +44 (0)113 34 35348

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