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A Meta-Analysis of the Effects of Cell Phones on Driver Performance

A Meta-Analysis of the Effects of Cell Phones on Driver Performance

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Accident Analysis and Prevention 40 (2008) 1282–1293
A meta-analysis of the effects of cell phones on driver performance
Jeff K. Caird
a
,
, Chelsea R. Willness
b
, Piers Steel
c
, Chip Scialfa
b
a
Cognitive Ergonomics Research Laboratory, University of Calgary, 2500 University Dr. N.W. Calgary, Alberta T2N 1N4, Canada
b
 Department of Psychology, University of Calgary, 2500 University Dr. N.W. Calgary, Alberta T2N 1N4, Canada
c
 Haskayne School of Business, University of Calgary, 2500 University Dr. N.W. Calgary, Alberta T2N 1N4, Canada
Received 11 September 2007; received in revised form 2 January 2008; accepted 30 January 2008
Abstract
The empirical basis for legislation to limit cell phones while driving is addressed. A comprehensive meta-analysis of the effects of cell phoneson driving performance was performed. A total of 33 studies collected through 2007 that met inclusion criteria yielded 94 effect size estimates,with a total sample size of approximately 2000 participants. The dependent variables of reaction time, lateral vehicle control, headway and speedand the moderating variables of research setting (i.e., laboratory, simulator, on-road), conversation target (passenger, cell phone) and conversationtype (cognitive task, naturalistic) were coded. Reaction time (RT) to events and stimuli while talking produced the largest performance decrements.Handheld and hands-free phones produced similar RT decrements. Overall, a mean increase in RT of .25s was found to all types of phone-relatedtasks.Observedperformancedecrementsprobablyunderestimatethetruebehaviorofdriverswithmobilephonesintheirownvehicles.Inaddition,drivers using either phone type do not appreciably compensate by giving greater headway or reducing speed. Tests for moderator effects on RT andspeed found no statistically significant effect size differences across laboratory, driving simulation and on-road research settings. The implicationsof the results for legislation and future research are considered.© 2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Keywords:
Cellular or mobile phones; Meta-analysis; Driver performance; Experimental methods
1. Introduction
Many governments, institutions and corporations are inter-ested in the safety implications of cell phone use while driving.Approximately 44 countries have banned the use of handheldphones while driving (Cellular-News, 2007; Sundeen, 2005).In theU.S.,passedlegislationtodatehasbeenlimitedtothreestates(New York, Washington DC and California). Newfoundland istheonlyprovinceinCanadathathaspassedhandheldlegislation.Numerous corporations and institutions have also developedpolicies that prohibit employees from using cell phones whiledriving. Many legislative bodies are in the process of consider-ing a variety of restrictions on mobile phones. However, do thedata justify these and similar prohibitions?Research on cell phones and driving has been the focus of a large body of literature, especially over the past decade. Thefirst study to specifically investigate the impact of cell phoneson driving was published byBrown et al. (1969).Today, the volume of research on all aspects of driving with cell phones is
Corresponding author. Tel.: +1 403 220 5571; fax: +1 403 282 8249.
 E-mail address:
jkcaird@ucalgary.ca(J.K. Caird).
about a meter in width. However, the research on the dangersof using mobile phones while driving is not consistent, withsome arguing that the results represent an overreaction based onfaulty methods (Shinar et al., 2005).Policy makers need a firm foundation upon which to make decisions. If driving while on acell phone is truly dangerous, then legislation prohibiting theiruse should be more widely enacted. If the use of mobile phoneswhile driving proves to have negligible effects, legislation thatchannels limited law enforcement time toward policing requiresconvergent and rigorous empirical support. Given this, we needto summarize what is known.Unfortunately, most previous efforts to review the researchregarding cell phones and driving have been traditional qualita-tive literature reviews (e.g.,Caird and Dewar, 2007; Goodmanet al., 1997; McCartt et al., 2006; National TransportationSafety Board, 2003).Though a popular methodology, there arelimitations in their ability to synthesize data as well as examinein a systematic manner complex relations among the variablesof interest (Hunter and Schmidt, 1990).Rather, meta-analysis is recommended.Meta-analysis avoids some of the limitations of the standardliterature review. It improves researchers’ ability to statistically
0001-4575/$ – see front matter © 2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.doi:10.1016/j.aap.2008.01.009
 
 J.K. Caird et al. / Accident Analysis and Prevention 40 (2008) 1282–1293
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combine the results of many studies as well as reconcile con-flicting findings through the examination of moderators andmediators (Rosenthal and DiMatteo, 2001).Importantly, meta- analysis enables a larger number of research dimensions to beincluded in the analysis. Meta-analysis encourages finding allavailable studies and determining the extent to which attributesof the set of studies support central hypotheses. Consequently,thepurposeofthispaperistometa-analyticallyestimatethetrueeffects of cell phone interaction on driver performance. First,we consider the findings of two previous meta-analyses on cellphonesanddrivingaswellashowourpresentpaperbuildsupontheir limitations.
1.1. Past meta-analyses on cell phones and driving
Two previous meta-analyses of cell phones and driving per-formance have been conducted, and these have served to informresearchersandpolicymakers.HorreyandWickens(2006)ana- lyzed 23 studies andCaird et al. (2004)synthesized 22 studies, bothcoveringtheliteraturethrough2004.Commontobothstud-ies was a detrimental effect of cell phone use on reaction timeand smaller effects on lateral control.However, the research interest in cell phones and driver dis-traction has continued with intensity since 2004, providing asufficient foundation for further updating the literature. Asidefrom considering a larger body of literature, the present meta-analysissystematicallycodesawiderrangeofeffectsthanthesepreviousmeta-analyses.Reactiontimetoevents,lateralandlon-gitudinal vehicle control, and glance behavior are the generalcategories of measures that have been used in studies on cellphones and driving. Other important variables, such as speedandheadway,werenotincludedinpreviousanalysesandresultselsewhere are not entirely consistent.For instance, knowing whether drivers compensate (e.g.,reducing speed or increasing headway) has been hypothesizedandobservedbyanumberofresearchers(e.g.,˚AlmandNilsson,1995),but other researchers have not found driver compensa-tion (Ishida and Matsuura, 2001).Time or distance headway, or how close a driver gets to a lead vehicle while engaged ina distraction task, indicates that drivers who are more engagedin a conversation may come closer to the lead vehicle (Ranneyet al., 2004).To offset losses of perceived safety when usinga cell phone, drivers may engage in adaptive or compensatorybehaviors, such as increasing their following distance (˚Alm andNilsson, 1995)and decreasing their speed (˚Alm and Nilsson,1994).In general, the pattern of results suggests that driversadjusttheirheadwaywhenusingahandheldphone,butnotwithahands-freephone.Thus,inclusionoflongitudinalcontrolmea-sures should provide a more complete picture of the trade-offsdrivers make when absorbed to varying degrees by cell phoneinteraction.In addition to driver compensation, other variables may miti-gate the effect of cell phones on driving performance. First, cellphonesanddrivingcanbeexaminedinavarietyofexperimentalcontexts, such as on the road and in driving simulators.Horreyand Wickens (2006)compared the results from field and simu-lation studies and found that effect sizes were similar, with fieldstudies potentially showing greater costs. The simulation cate-gory included laboratory tasks where no tracking was required(e.g.,Consiglioetal.,2003).Wearguethataseparatecategoryis required to distinguish between true driving simulation studiesand laboratory tasks, as the latter may not adequately impose asufficient steering load on the driver. For example,Caird et al.(2004)ound that laboratory tasks produced a larger effect sizeestimate than either field or simulator studies. In addition, lab-oratory studies may be relatively free of confounding variablesthat mask effects with additional experimental error. A morethorough investigation of this moderator variable has a numberof methodological implications.Second, conversation with a passenger may or may not beanalogous to conversation on a cell phone. Passengers mayadjust when they speak to the driver because they are attuned towhat is going on in traffic and with the road geometry. To date,most studies have found that passengers do not seem to regu-late their conversation with the driver (Gugerty et al., 2004)and both kinds of conversations are a source of distraction (Horreyand Wickens, 2006).However, a number of additional studieshave appeared and the question of which source of distractionimposesagreaterloadonthedriver(i.e.,cellphoneorpassenger)requires reconsideration.Third,Shinar et al. (2005)argues that the ‘phone tasks’ used byexperimenterstoapproximateconversationsarenotrepresen-tative of real conversations. In contrast, other researchers usednaturalistic conversation where participants select from a listof topics to discuss with an experimenter prior to entering thetesting sessions (e.g.,Rakauskas et al., 2004).The experimental tasks, Shinar argues, are more likely to impose a higher cogni-tiveworkload on adriver. However,Horrey and Wickens (2006)found higher effect size estimates for conversation tasks thanfor experimental tasks, which is the opposite of Shinar’s (2005)results. A re-consideration of this issue with more studies mayreconcile this discrepancy.Fourth, the pattern of effects for older drivers is also some-what equivocal. The impact of cell phones on older driversappears to be more detrimental in some studies (Brookhuis etal., 1991),but not others (˚Alm and Nilsson, 1995).Synthesis of effectsbasedonavailablestudiesservestoclarifythisimportantindividual difference.Finally,anumberofimportantstatisticalissueshavenotbeensufficiently addressed by these earlier meta-analyses on cellphone use while driving, such as zero-coding of effect sizes andfailsafe-
 N 
estimates. For example,McCartt et al. (2006, p. 96)critiques the results of an earlier version of Horrey and Wickens(2006),notonlyforfailingtoincludestudiesthatincludedotherdriving measures (besides RT and tracking), but also for inad-equately accounting for publication bias, where specific resultshave been systematically excluded. For example, many stud-ies simply do not report non-significant effects. If these areignored, it biases the results upwards, making the average effectsize larger than it should be. Alternatively, we could estimatethese non-significant effects as zero. Unfortunately, this simplyreverses the bias and leads to an underestimate of the aver-age effect size (Pigott, 1994).BothHorrey and Wickens (2006) andCaird et al. (2004)used this second approach to code non-
 
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J.K. Caird et al. / Accident Analysis and Prevention 40 (2008) 1282–1293
Table 1List of studies and effects coded included in the meta-analysisNo. Study Phone type Dependent measures Conversation target Setting Conversation type1˚Alm and Nilsson (1994)HF v. Base Lat. pos., speed Cell Sim. Cognitive2˚Alm and Nilsson (1995)HF v. Base RT Cell Sim. Cognitive3Amado and Ulupinar (2005)HF v. Base RT Cell, Passenger Sim. Cognitive4Beede and Kass (2005)HF v. Base RT, Lat. pos., speed Cell Lab. Cognitive5Brookhuis et al. (1991)HF v. Base RT, Lat. pos. Cell On-road Cognitive6Burns et al. (2002)HH, HF, Base RT Cell, Passenger Sim. Cognitive7Burns et al. (2003)HF v. Base RT Cell Sim. Cognitive8Chisholm et al. (2006)HF v. Base RT. Lat. pos., speed Cell Sim. Naturalistic9Consiglio et al. (2003)HF, HH, Base RT Cell, Passenger Lab. Naturalistic10Cooper et al. (2003)HF v. Base RT, speed Cell On-road Cognitive11Graham and Carter (2001)HF v. Base RT, Lat. pos. Cell Lab. Cognitive12Gugerty et al. (2004)HF v. Base RT Cell, Passenger Lab. Cognitive13Horberry et al. (2006)HF v. Base Speed Cell Sim. Cognitive14Horswill and McKenna (1999)HF v. Base RT, Head Cell Lab. Cognitive15Irwin et al. (2000)HH v. Base RT Cell Lab. Naturalistic16Kircher et al. (2004)HH, HF, Base RT, Lat. pos., Head, speed Cell Sim. Cognitive17Laberge et al. (2004)HF v. Base RT, Lat. pos., speed Cell, Passenger Sim. Cognitive18Lui and Lee (2005)HF v. Base Speed Cell On-road Cognitive19Lui and Lee (2006)HF v. Base Lat. pos., speed Cell On-road Cognitive20McCarley et al. (2004)HF v. Base RT, Lat. pos. Cell Lab. Naturalistic21McPhee et al. (2004)HF v. Base RT Cell Lab. Cognitive22Parkes and H¨o¨oijmeijer (2001)HF v. Base RT Cell Sim. Cognitive23Patten et al. (2004)HH, HF, Base RT Cell On-road Cognitive24Rakauskas et al. (2004)HF v. Base RT, Lat. pos., speed Cell Sim. Naturalistic25Ranney et al. (2004)HF v. Base RT, Lat. pos., Head, speed Cell Sim. Cognitive26Shinar et al. (2005)HF v. Base Lat. pos., speed Cell Sim. Naturalistic, cognitive27Strayer and Drews (2004)HF v. Base RT, Head, speed Cell Sim. Naturalistic28Strayer et al. (2003)HF v. Base RT, Head Cell Sim. Naturalistic29Strayer and Johnston (2001)HH, HF, Base RT Cell Lab. Naturalistic30Uno and Hiramatsu (2000)HF v. Base Speed Cell On-road Cognitive31de Waard et al. (2001)HH v. Base Lat. pos., speed Cell Sim. Cognitive32Waugh et al. (2000)HH v. Base Speed Cell On-road Cognitive33Woo and Lin (2001)HH v. Base RT Cell Sim. Naturalistic
 Note
: HH is handheld, HF is hands-free, Base is baseline, RT is reaction time, Head is headway, Lat. pos. is lateral position, Cell is cellular or mobile telephone,Sim. is driving simulator and Lab. is laboratory.
significantdifferences,meaningthattrueeffectsarelikelylargerthan previously reported.The preferred methodology for dealing with unreportedeffects is simply to minimize the issue as much as possible. Bycontacting the study authors directly, they can often provide theneeded information (Lipsey and Wilson, 2001),which was the approachtakenhere.Furthermore,wealsocalculatedfailsafe-
 N 
,a measure of our results’ stability. It determines how many “filedrawer” studies (i.e., non-reported results) would be necessaryto invalidate our findings.
2. Methods
2.1. Literature search
A comprehensive search for references, which was con-ducted over the span of approximately 4 years, used a varietyof techniques including querying databases (e.g., SafetyLit,http://www.safetylit.org,PSYCinfo), cross-referencing bibli- ographies from reviews (e.g.,Goodman et al., 1997; NationalTransportation Safety Board, 2003),index searches of pro-ceedings (e.g., Human Factors and Ergonomics Society,Transportation Research Board), backtracking references fromarticles, conversations with numerous colleagues, contactingeditors and authors, and searching the Internet. Acquisition of published and lower-circulation publications, such as technicalreports was integral to the search process. Frequently, studiesappeared in multiple sources, such as a proceedings paper, atechnical report and/or a journal. Variations of this publicationprogression are common in the human factors literature. Eitherthe most complete form of a study (e.g., technical report) orthe highest quality outlet (i.e., a peer reviewed journal) wasused. Publication redundancies were carefully eliminated, andstatistical results were cross-checked across versions.After the elimination of publication redundancies, a total of 106 studies were obtained that were published from 1969 to2007. A number of additional studies did not meet independentand dependent variable criteria for inclusion. For the dependentvariable, studies needed to measure: reaction time, headway,speed or lateral control.Of the remaining studies, many failed to adequately reportmethodologicaldetailsandstatisticalinformationincludingnullresults or, most commonly, critical post hoc tests. For example,authors frequently report only main effects tests but not criti-

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