A comparison of the effect of mobile phone use and alcohol consumption on driving simulation performance

  • Published: Traffic injury prevention, 13(6), 2012
  • Authors: Leung, S., Croft, R. J., Jackson, M. L., Howard, M. E., & Mckenzie, R. J.
  • Date Added: 28 Mar 2015
  • Last Update: 28 Mar 2015
  • Format: html

Objectives:

Compared the effects of a variety of mobile phone usage conditions to different levels of alcohol intoxication on simulated driving performance and psychomotor vigilance.

Methodology:

Participants completed simulated driving tasks on 2 days, separated by a 1-week washout period. On the mobile phone day, participants performed the simulated driving task under each of 4 conditions: no phone usage, a hands-free naturalistic conversation, a hands-free cognitively demanding conversation, and texting. On the alcohol day, participants performed the simulated driving task at four different blood alcohol concentration (BAC) levels: 0.00, 0.04, 0.07, and 0.10. Driving performance was assessed by variables including time within target speed range, time spent speeding, braking reaction time, speed deviation, and lateral lane position deviation.

Twelve healthy university students (10 female) aged 23.5 to 30.8 (mean 26.20, standard deviation [SD] 2.58) participated in the study. Participants held a current ull Australian driving license (not a probationary license). Participants were excluded if they had not drunk alcohol before or if they were excessive drinkers (more than 4 standard drinks a day on average or more than 6 standard drinks on any one occasion for men; more than 2 standard drinks a day on average or more than 4 standard drinks on any one occasion for women; National Health and Medical Research Council [NHMRC] 2001). Participants were also excluded if they reported taking psychotropic medication, used illicit drugs more than 5 times a week, or smoked more than 10 cigarettes a day. They also underwent a medical examination by a registered physician to satisfy inclusion/exclusion criteria for the study

Key Findings:

  • In the BAC 0.07 and 0.10 alcohol conditions, participants spent less time in the target speed range and more time speeding and took longer to brake in the BAC 0.04, 0.07, and 0.10 than in the BAC 0.00 condition.

  • In the mobile phone condition, participants took longer to brake in the natural hands-free conversation, cognitively demanding hands-free conversation and texting conditions and spent less time in the target speed range and more time speeding in the cognitively demanding, hands-free conversation, and texting conditions.

  • When comparing the 2 conditions, the naturalistic conversation was comparable to the legally permissible BAC level (0.04), and the cognitively demanding and texting conversations were similar to the BAC 0.07 to 0.10 results.

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