Impact of distracting activities and drivers’ cognitive failures on driving performance

H. Farah, S. Zatmeh, T. Toledo, P. Wagner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The rapid increase in the availability of smartphones and other infotainment devices, and their widespread use while driving, contributes significantly to car crash rates. Understanding of the impact of distracting activities on drivers’ behavior is essential in order to support the development of effective technology and policy solutions to mitigate its potential risk. The main objective of this study is to investigate the impact of several distracting activities on driving performance. A driving simulator experiment was developed to collect data on several driver performance measures while undertaking different distracting activities. 101 volunteer drivers participated in the study (68 males and 33 females) with age range between 18 to 57 years old. Each driver drove four scenarios on a two-lane rural highway, while undertaking various activities: (1) using a hand-held cell-phone; (2) texting; (3) eating; and (4) a control scenario (no distracting activity). In all of these scenarios the distracting activity took place during the entire scenario. Each scenario took on average 4 minutes to complete. The speeds and accelerations of the other vehicles within the scenarios were chosen randomly from pre-defined uniform distributions. Data on the longitudinal and lateral movements of the vehicles were recorded in the experiment and various measures were calculated from this raw data. In addition, all participants completed a questionnaire on their personal characteristics, their frequency of involvement in distracting activities and level of distractibility, and the Cognitive Failures Questionnaire. Significant differences were found in the driving performance measures among drivers undertaking the various distracting activities. In particular, texting had the largest negative effect on driving performance. The results of this study show that distracting activities negatively impact driving performance for both genders and all age groups, regardless of their experience in performing a second task while driving.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)71-82
Number of pages12
JournalAdvances in Transportation Studies
StatePublished - 2016


  • Cognitive failures
  • Distraction
  • Driver behaviour
  • Driving simulator
  • Safety

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Automotive Engineering
  • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality
  • Transportation


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