EKU Online psychology students complete research project on driving distractions

Everyone has heard the slogan “Don’t drink and drive.”  Now that practically everyone has a cell phone, the new rally has become “Don’t text and drive.”  But how much do drinking and texting—and other distractions—actually affect a person’s driving performance?

EKU On-line students Patricia Clay, Majid Farooqui, Amanda Howard, and Heather Wagener, working together with Psychology professor Dr. Richard Osbaldiston, analyzed 38 published studies that reported the effects on driving of four major distractions: drinking alcohol, texting on a phone, eating food, and being high on marijuana.

Not surprisingly, texting had the strongest effect on paying attention while driving.  Texting reduces the amount of attention far more than any of the other types of distractions, and texting resulted in the highest number of crashes, also.

Drinking alcohol also had a negative effect on driving, but mostly because drunk drivers don’t stay in their lanes and don’t control their speed evenly. 

Eating while driving is very common, and it has not become the object of public service messages in the same way that drinking and texting have.  But the research showed that eating while driving is still quite dangers.  In simulator tests, people who eat while driving have as many crashes as people who are texting.

The studies that measured the effects of smoking marijuana while driving came from European countries where marijuana is legalized.  The studies indicate that it is not safe to drive while high, but marijuana does not seem to have the same effects on driving performance that other distractions do.

Published on June 03, 2016