Investigating the Impact of Distracted Driving among Different Socio-Demographic Groups (Core Project) (formerly "Hands on Wheel, Eyes on Road" Campaign)

Project Abstract

Previous studies examined the detrimental impact of distracted driving on safety; however, the effect of different types of distraction accompanied by different road classes has not been investigated. This study used a high-fidelity driving simulator and an eye-tracking system to examine the driving behavior of young participants while engaged in various in-vehicle distractions - no cell phone, handsfree call, hand-held call, voice commands text, text, taking on or off clothing, and eating or drinking - on different road classes: rural collector, freeway, urban arterial, and local road in a school zone; and with an out-of-vehicle billboard distraction. Some 92 participants drove a simulated network in the Baltimore Metropolitan Area with seven scenarios (one base scenario without any distraction and six different types of distractions). Participants also completed questionnaires documenting demographics and driving behavior before and after the driving simulator experience. The descriptive and statistical analysis of in-vehicle distractions revealed how they negatively impact safety: Participants exhibited greater fluctuations in speed, changed lanes significantly more times, and deviated from the center of the road when they were distracted while driving. The results indicated that drivers reduced their speed by up to 33% while distracted with hands free/voice command cell phone usage, which is inconsistent with the current cell phone usage policies in most states. The highest speed reduction happened on the local road when taking on/off clothing (50%), voice command texting (33%), and texting (29%). Visibility and gender significantly affected gaze fixation duration on billboards. Female participants had lower gaze fixation duration than their male counterparts on billboards, while males had less gaze fixation duration on the phone than female. The billboard with a lower cognitive load had less gaze fixation duration than the one with a higher cognitive load.

Read the full report.

Outputs and Outcomes

In addition to the report, this project produced a short video detailing how distracted driving is researched and what happened when drivers engaged in a variety of distractions. The video is publicly available on You Tube.

The project also pinpointed the specific effects of various distractions while on different types of roads, which has implications for policymakers and laws governing distracted driving.

Universities and Sponsoring Organizations Involved

Morgan State University, UMEC, MDOT: Maryland Highway Safety Office (MHSO), U.S. Department of Transportation Office of the Secretary-Research

Principal Investigators

Mansoureh Jeihani (MSU),; Samira Ahangari; Arsalan Hassan Pour; Nashid Khadem; Snehanshu Banerjee

Funding Sources and Amounts

UMEC: $10,125 (Federal), MDOT (MHSO): $31,540

Start Date

October 1, 2017

Completion Date

December, 2019


Traffic Safety and Mobility, Distracted Driving, Driver Behavior, Driving Simulator