Does Cell Phone Use Impair Learning and Improvement in Driving Performance?

A process that is central to the pursuit and attainment of goals is monitoring (Baumeister, Heatherton, & Tice, 1994). In the monitoring of a task, individuals observe themselves, the task conditions, and their progress toward their goals. In the context of driving, individuals monitor the road conditions, and their thoughts, feelings, and performance in the operation of a vehicle. Research at the Center for the Prevention of Distracted Driving at the University of Utah has demonstrated that cell phone use not only diminishes the safeness of driving (e.g., Strayer & Drews, 2007; Strayer, Drews, & Johnston, 2003), it diminishes drivers' awareness of the safeness of their driving. In a study funded by the Mountain Plains Consortium, talking on a cell phone diminished participants' cognizance of their driving errors and performance (Sanbonmatsu, Strayer, Biondi, Behrends, & Moore, 2015). Participants' estimations of their errors and self-assessments of their driving safety were highly correlated with their actual driving errors when they were not distracted but largely uncorrelated when they talked on a cell phone. The findings suggest that motorists may be overconfident about their ability to drive safely while distracted (Sanbonmatsu, Strayer, Medeiros-Ward, Behrends, & Watson, 2015 ) and persist in using cell phones because they are unaware of the adverse effects of multi-tasking on their driving. The diminished situational awareness resulting from cell phone use may affect the ability of individuals to self-regulate their driving (Carver and Scheier, 1998) and improve the safeness of their performance. Motorists normally learn the challenging and hazardous features of the roads they frequent and the errors they make in driving. However, when drivers engage in cellular communication, their monitoring of their driving and the travel environment is obstructed. As a consequence, they may be more likely to repeat their mistakes in the future.


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  • Status: Active
  • Contract Numbers:


  • Sponsor Organizations:

    Office of the Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology

    University Transportation Centers Program
    Department of Transportation
    Washington, DC  United States  20590
  • Project Managers:

    Kline, Robin

  • Performing Organizations:

    University of Utah

    Dept. of Psychology
    380 S 1530 E BEH S 502
    Salt Lake City, UT  United States  84112
  • Principal Investigators:

    Sanbonmatsu, David

    Strayer, David

  • Start Date: 20161220
  • Expected Completion Date: 20180731
  • Actual Completion Date: 0
  • Source Data: MPC-525

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01648641
  • Record Type: Research project
  • Source Agency: Mountain-Plains Consortium
  • Contract Numbers: DTRT13-G-UTC38
  • Files: UTC, RiP
  • Created Date: Oct 20 2017 12:25PM