An article in the Daily Mail earlier this week suggests that distractions such as talking on a mobile phone or changing the radio could make us safer drivers.
The article featured new research from Kansas University which suggests that drivers who engage in a ‘secondary task’ pay more attention to the road as some distractions alleviate boredom and increase focus.
In a driving simulator 45 participants drove for 30 minutes while talking on the phone. Researchers tested their attentiveness and short-term memory by introducing obstacles.
Some drivers were given a secondary task throughout the drive, some performed an additional task at the end of the trip, and some had no concurrent task.
Drivers’ level of attention was gauged by their ability to stay in their lane, react in time to avoid an intruder car, avoid radical steering maneuvers to maintain a steady course and accurately remember the signs they passed.
The results appear to indicate that drivers who had to perform a concurrent task in the latter portion of the trip were more likely to stay in their lane and were less likely to make mistakes, compared with drivers who had either a continuous or no additional task.
These findings suggest that as driving becomes monotonous and drivers’ minds drift from the road, strategically introducing an additional task, such as talking on the phone or listening to the radio, might improve attention and stability.
But, in an almost contradictory way, the authors warned: “Although these results suggest improvements in driving performance, there is still a degree of risk involved.”
Click here to read the full Daily Mail report.