Driver Distraction

SiDE instrumented vehicle

We all react to events on the road in different ways, depending on our experience, confidence and focus.

So how can we create a personalised system that offers warnings and intervenes when we need it?

Researchers from SiDE’s transport team are laying the groundwork for these systems by investigating the impact of distraction on individual drivers, putting volunteers through their paces in a professional driving simulator. This work will enable researchers to determine how to calculate a person’s normal driving behaviour, and when to act on deviations from it.

The team focused on mental distractions which take attention away from the road, such as conversations with passengers and use of a hands-free or hand-held phone. Each volunteer was asked to complete several test drives in a simulator while being exposed to different types of distraction, including a phone call and a spoken quiz asking them to remember information from films, books or TV.

The study revealed that, while hands-free devices reduce the distraction caused by holding a phone or looking at it, there is still a distraction which comes from focusing too intently on a conversation. For example, the study of 50 volunteers found that speed maintenance and steering performance declined 37% while on hands-free phones, compared to 25% when having a conversation with a passenger.

The data was gathered using the DriveLAB simulator, which collects information about heart rate, eye position, speed and steering. They were presented at the launch of the BRAKE National Road Safety Week, as part of a call to encourage people to be more aware of the distraction posed by phones in vehicles. Dr Amy Guo also discussed the research at ITS World Congress 2013 in Tokyo.

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Dr Amy Guo (
Matias Garcia-Constantino (

Measuring the impact of cognitive distractions on driving performance using time series analysis. Matias Garcia-Constantino, Paolo Missier, Phil Blythe and Amy Weihong Guo (To be published at IEEE-ITSC 2014 conference?)