The impact of leaving a voicemail, environment familiarity, and pedestrian predictability on driving behavior

Melissa R. Beck, Rebecca R. Goldstein, Katherine C. Moen, Alex S. Cohen, Brian Wolshon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Talking on a cell phone can impair driving performance, but the dynamics of this effect are not fully understood. We examined the effects of leaving a voicemail message on driving when there are critical driving targets to attend to (crosswalks and pedestrians). Participants engaged in an ecologically-valid “voicemail” task while navigating a virtual environment using a driving simulator. We also examined the potential weakening or strengthening of effects of leaving a voicemail message on driving as the familiarity and predictability of critical targets changed. Participants completed four experimental runs through the same driving environment in a driving simulator. There were two crosswalks, one with a pedestrian entering the roadway and one without a pedestrian and the location of the pedestrian was predictable (the same pedestrian consistently used the same crosswalk) for the first three runs and then unpredictable for the fourth. Half of the participants left voicemail messages using a hands-free headset, while the other half drove in silence. Leaving a voicemail message increased steering deviation and velocity. Drivers who were leaving a voicemail message decelerated for pedestrians in the roadway to a similar speed as drivers who were not leaving a voicemail message, but they were delayed in braking. Drivers who were leaving a voicemail message also had worse memory for roadway landmarks. These effects were relatively stable across runs through the same driving environment, suggesting that familiarity and predictability did not impact the effects of leaving a voicemail message while driving. Therefore, leaving a voicemail message leads to poorer driving behavior; faster speed, variable steering, and worse memory for roadway landmarks. Interestingly, although drivers who were leaving a voicemail message were slower to react to local targets, they slowed as much as drivers who were not leaving a voicemail message and familiarity with the driving environment did not impact the effects of leaving a voicemail message on driving.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)487-506
Number of pages20
JournalTransportation Research Part F: Traffic Psychology and Behaviour
Volume74
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 2020

Keywords

  • Attention
  • Cellphone use
  • Driving
  • Memory
  • Visual attention

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Automotive Engineering
  • Transportation
  • Applied Psychology

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