Mobile phone conversation distraction: Understanding differences in impact between simulator and naturalistic driving studies.


Research Centre for Integrated Transport Innovation (rCITI), School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW, 2052 Australia; School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Technology Sydney, Ultimo, NSW, 2007, Australia. Electronic address: [Email]


A current issue within the driver distraction community centres around different findings regarding the impact of mobile phone conversation on driving found in driving simulators versus instrumented vehicles employed in real-world naturalistic driving studies (NDSs). This paper compares and contrasts the two types of studies and aims to provide reasons for the differences in findings that have been documented. A comprehensive review of literature and consultations with human factors experts highlighted that simulator studies tend to show degradation in driving performance, suggestive of increased crash risk as a result of mobile phone conversation. Whilst NDSs, at times, present data suggesting that mobile phone conversation distraction actually reduces crash risk. This study identifies that these differences may be attributed to behavioural hypotheses associated with driver self-regulation, arousal from cognitive loading, task displacement and gaze concentration - all of which need to be explicitly tested in future driving studies. Metric estimation and application was also revealed to be polarising results and the subsequent assessment of the crash risk. A common metric applied in this domain is the 'Odds Ratio', particularly prevalent in NDSs. This study presents a detailed investigation into the assumptions and application of the Odds Ratio which revealed the potential for over- and under-estimation of the metric depending on the core data and sampling assumptions. Furthermore, this research presents a comparative analysis of select driving simulator studies and an NDS considering only driving behaviour data as a means to consistently compare the findings of both methodologies. The findings from this investigation implores the need for greater consistency in the application of analysis methods and metrics across both simulator and NDSs. Improvements can yield a more robust platform to systematically compare and interpret data across both approaches, ultimately leading to enhanced planning and safety regarding mobile phone use while driving.


Conversation,Driver distraction,Mobile phone,Naturalistic driving studies,Odds ratio,Simulator studies,