Distracted Driving due to Visual Working Memory Load

Distracted driving is responsible for many deaths and injuries and a significant portion are due to the use of a cell-phone. Even people who know of the risks continue to use cell-phones, often saying “it’s no worse than talking to a passenger” (which is not true). In order to enhance safety through means beyond public education, a better understanding of the specific manner in which distractions interfere with the cognitive processing required for driving is needed. Focusing on the limitations of visual short-term memory (VSTM), the present work will examine the hypothesis that concurrent distractions, including the use of a cell-phone, interfere with safe driving by reducing the amount of VSTM that is available for those processes needed for driving. This hypothesis will be tested by manipulating the amount of VSTM that is occupied by a secondary task while participants drive in a simulator. It is predicted that, starting at very low levels of VSTM load, responses to unexpected events will be impeded. As concurrent load is further increased, approaching the limits of VSTM capacity, it is predicted that measures of overall driving performance, such as following distance, will also be affected. These findings would provide valuable evidence concerning the causes of distracted-driving effects and would help to explain why many people appear to believe that using a cell-phone isn’t as dangerous as it actually is. These findings would also provide preliminary evidence in support of a new model of distracted driving, allowing larger proposals to be submitted to other agencies, while enabling a new collaboration between the National Advanced Driving Simulator, College of Engineering, and the Department of Psychology, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, at the University of Iowa. It will expose psychology students to the application of theory and method to problems in traffic safety.


    • English


    • Status: Completed
    • Funding: $46778.00
    • Contract Numbers:


    • Sponsor Organizations:

      Research and Innovative Technology Administration

      University Transportation Centers Program
      1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
      Washington, DC  United States  20590
    • Performing Organizations:

      University of Iowa, Iowa City

      102 Church Street
      Iowa City, IA  United States  52242
    • Principal Investigators:

      Mordkoff, J

    • Start Date: 20130701
    • Expected Completion Date: 0
    • Actual Completion Date: 20141231
    • Source Data: RiP Project 34763

    Subject/Index Terms

    Filing Info

    • Accession Number: 01487969
    • Record Type: Research project
    • Source Agency: Mid-America Transportation Center
    • Contract Numbers: DTRT12-G-UTC07
    • Files: UTC, RIP
    • Created Date: Jul 24 2013 1:02AM