Study: Phones & Passengers Are Sources of Driver Distraction

Posted on Mar 27, 2018

While most people will agree that texting or talking on a cell phone while driving diverts at least some of your attention from the road, most people do not think twice about talking to their passengers. However, a recent article in Human Factors journal says chatting with passengers is also a major source of distraction, making drivers much less aware of their surroundings.

Are All Conversations Equally Distracting for Drivers?

No. While all conversations behind the wheel can distract, the level of distraction will vary by how engaged the driver was in the conversation and whether the topic caused the driver to devote some of his mental attention to it.

For example, if the driver is having an argument with someone in the car, she will tend to be highly distracted by thinking about the topic of the conversation. On the other hand, if a driver is merely listening to a story his child is telling him, his mind is probably more heavily-focused on the road than the driver in the first example.

How Does Engaging in Conversations Change the Way We Drive?

Across the board, the following factors were better for drivers who were not talking with their passengers when compared to drivers who were engaged in conversation with other vehicle occupants:

  • Reaction time
  • Lane position
  • Speed
  • Maintaining distance from the car in front of the vehicle

Since drivers who were not talking with other people in their cars were more aware of the road and had better response times, the non-conversing drivers had fewer collisions than the chatting ones.

Can Any Type of Conversation Affect Your Driving?

Yes. The study found that no type of conversation is immune from stealing some of your attention. Regardless of whether the conversation is taking place with others inside the car, on a hand-held cell phone, or via speakerphone or Bluetooth, the research showed that all forms of conversation can impair driving.

Are There Any Other Common Distractions the Article Mentioned?

Yes. The article stated that daydreaming or “think[ing] about other things while driving” can also be distracting; however, it made clear that “cell phones demonstrate a more significant effect.”

Does Listening to Music Distract Drivers?

It is unclear. The article actually suggested it might be better to listen to music instead of talking with passengers while driving, but noted that research is “mixed on whether music does or does not impair driving.”

Recovering After a Distracted Driving Accident

We recommend you always focus the entirety of your attention on the road around you. However, we understand that not all drivers do so. If you are ever involved in an accident with a driver you believe was distracted, call the Law Office of Jason R. Schultz, P.C. to discuss your case with our team for free: 404-474-0804.