Bicycle Network: Behaviour
Mobile phone distraction evidence
There is strong evidence that it is inappropriate to use a mobile phone while driving.
Road Mode: less distraction for drivers
6 March 2013. Vic Roads has launched a mobile phone application aimed at keeping drivers' attention on the road rather than on the screen of their phone.
Road Mode, available now for Android phones, silences incoming calls and texts when you are on the road, and the app is switched on.
Callers or people texting you will receive an automated text response to let them know you are driving and can’t answer.
When you arrive at your destination, Road Mode will provide a summary of the calls and messages you received during your trip.
Driver distraction has recently emerged as a major factor in crash risk. Research has shown that using a mobile while driving impairs driving as much as being drunk.
Driver distraction is a critical issue for bike riders, as drivers involved in bike/car crashes often falsely claim that the rider was not visible, when in fact the driver was distracted
This had resulted in riders being blamed for such crashes, and consequently, in ill-informed campaigns to force riders to wear lurid clothing.
After an initial small spike of interest, where more than a 1000 people downloaded the Android version of the app, downloads have dropped precipitously.
An iPhone version is now in development.
How it works
When you activate the app it will answer all calls and texts with a set reply text such as: "Hi sorry I can't answer. I'm driving so my phone's in Road Mode. I'll get back to you when it's safe to talk.''
The auto reply will suggest to your friend that they get the app for themselves.
The app can be set to automatically take control of your phone when it senses that you are moving more than 20km/h. It will hand back control when it senses you have stopped moving.
This function may have value for public transport and bicycle users as well.
The app is free but you pay for the first reply text.
Texting tanks driver skills
8 December 2011. A new study using driversnon a driving circuit has found that texting makes drivers eleven times more likely to not see safety-critical objects along the road.
And when they did observe, their reaction times were twice as slow as drivers who were not distracted. This is far worse then previously thought.
The study was conducted by the Texas Transport Institute at the Texas A&M University on a test track circuit.
Each participant navigated a test-track course involving both an open section and a section lined with construction barrels. Drivers first drove the course without texting and then undertook texting tasks while driving through the course again.
Throughout the test-track exercise, each participant’s reaction time to a periodic flashing light was recorded.
Reaction times with no texting activity were typically between one and two seconds. Reaction times while texting, however, were at least three to four seconds. Worse yet, drivers were more than 11 times more likely to miss the flashing light altogether when they were texting.
This finding has major implications for bike riders. It is clear that a driver's ability to observe a rider is shockingly reduced if they are texting.
In addition to the reaction-time element, researchers also measured each driver’s ability to maintain proper lane position and a constant speed. Major findings further documented the impairment of texting when compared to the controlled driving conditions.
Drivers were less able to:
- safely maintain their position in the driving lane when they were texting, and their swerving was worse in the open sections of the course than in the barreled sections.
- maintain a constant speed while texting, tending to slow down in an effort to reduce the demand of the multiple tasks. By slowing down, a driver gains more time to correct for driving errors (such as the tendency to swerve while texting). Speed variance was also greater for texting drivers than for non texting drivers.
This research, which is still underway, will produce one of the first and only studies in the nation conducted in an actual driving environment.
That distinction is important, researchers say, because while simulators are useful, the dynamics of an actual vehicle are different, and some driver cues can’t be replicated in a simulator. By using a closed course, researchers can create an environment similar to real-world driving conditions while providing a high degree of safety for the participants.
20 per cent of all fatal crashes
“Most research on texting and driving has been limited to driving simulators. This study involved participants driving an actual vehicle,” researcher Christine Yager says.
“So one of the more important things we know now that we didn’t know before is that response times are even slower than we previously thought.”
The researchers also examined the productivity level of each driver, measuring the amount of texting activity they could perform while driving. Drivers were generally able to complete about half the exercise content behind the wheel compared to what they could do in a lab setting.
“There’s a general assumption by some people who believe they’re being more productive if they’re exchanging messages while they drive because they’re performing two tasks at once,” Cooper says. “But our findings suggest that the productivity level for each of those tasks drops to less than half what it should be. That indicates to us that texting while driving is not only unsafe, it’s also inefficient.”
The researchers say that another finding from the study dispels a common misconception that composing a text message is a more demanding task than reading one. In post-study interviews, a majority of study participants held that belief, but study results found significant impairment from both reading and writing.
The findings of this study extend to other distracting activities involving reading and writing, such as checking email or Facebook, while driving.
In the interest of safety for both participants and the research staff, researchers minimised the complexity of the driving task, using a straight-line course that contained no hills, traffic or potential conflicts other than the construction-zone barrels.
Consequently, the driving demands that participants encountered were considerably lower than those they would encounter under real-world conditions.
“It is frightening,” the researchers wrote, “to think of how much more poorly our participants may have performed if the driving conditions were more consistent with routine driving.”
US statistics suggest that distracted driving contributes to as much as 20 percent of all fatal crashes, and that cell phones constitute the primary source of driver distraction.
BMJ finds phone trouble
12 July 2005. Drivers using mobile phones were more likely to crash, even after they had used the phone.
The study was Role of mobile phones in motor vehicle crashes resulting in hospital attendance: a case-crossover study by
Suzanne P McEvoy, Mark R Stevenson, Anne T McCartt, Mark Woodward, Claire Haworth, Peter Palamara, Rina Cercarelli
Abstract Objectives: To explore the effect of drivers’ use of mobile (cell) phones on road safety.
Design: A case-crossover study.
Setting: Perth,Western Australia.
Participants 456 drivers aged ≥ 17 years who owned or used mobile phones and had been involved in road crashesmnecessitating hospital attendance between April 2002 and July 2004.
Main outcome measure: Driver’s use of mobile phone at estimated time of crash and on trips at the same time of day in the week before the crash. Interviews with drivers in hospital and phone company’s records of phone use.
Results: Driver’s use of a mobile phone up to 10 minutes before a crash was associated with a fourfold increased likelihood of crashing.
Conclusions: When drivers use a mobile phone there is an increased likelihood of a crash resulting in injury. Using a hands-free phone is not any safer.
The study is available here: British Medical Journal
Eyes stray dangerously when text messaging
2 June 2005. Young drivers spend four times the amount of driving time with their eyes off the road when illegally sending SMS messages than motorists who obey the law, according to new research by NRMA Motoring & Services and NRMA Insurance.
NRMA road safety expert, John Brown, said the research - conducted for the first time ever in Australia - found young drivers who text messaged while driving spent 12 out of every 30 seconds with their eyes diverted from the road, posing a significant safety risk to themselves and other road users.
The research was conducted using a simulator at Monash University Accident Research Centre to monitor the driving behaviour of 20 drivers aged between 18 and 21 while sending text messages. The findings will be presented at the NRMA-sponsored Driver Distraction Conference to be held in Sydney today.
"We have known anecdotally that text messaging while driving is a major distraction and can be dangerous," Mr Brown said.
"This research, conducted in Australia for the first time, has quantified just how dramatic an impact messaging has on a driver's focus on the road and how it adversely affects driving performance.
"We found that when driving and sending messages at the same time, young drivers would veer out of their lane 63 per cent more frequently.
"Also, the drivers in the study made 140 per cent more incorrect lane changes by not noticing or correctly reading signs when text messaging."
NRMA Insurance Road Safety Manager, Pam Leicester, said the research focused on young drivers who had held their licence for six months or less.
"Despite their perceived competence as text messengers, these are young, inexperienced drivers and it is clear that it is impossible for them to text message and drive safely at the same time. The results show almost every aspect of their driving performance was adversely affected," Ms Leicester said.
"In order to send a text message while driving, motorists need to take their eyes off the road and split their attention between the task of driving and text messaging. Motorists simply cannot do both competently and without putting themselves at an increased risk of having a crash.
"It is interesting to note, that participants recognised the increased safety risk of text messaging while driving, yet many still take the unnecessary risk to retrieve or send messages.
"Drivers need to be more aware of the dangers of texting while driving. We recommend motorists simply don't use mobiles while driving and pull over if you need to communicate with someone."