An important safety study that will concern all employers with drivers using public roads has found even highly practiced professional drivers experience a significant deterioration in driving performance while using mobile phones.
Researchers from the Indian Institute of Technology observed professional drivers from a transport company, most of whom reported using their phones regularly for conversation purposes when driving. It is a major safety concern, therefore, that the study revealed these drivers “couldn’t cope with the increased workload” concerned with talking or texting on their phones while driving.
The study sought to determine the effect of phone use on inexperienced drivers under the age of 25, and experienced drivers aged between 25 and 50. Driving simulators were utilised, with participants required to drive 3.5km along a four-lane undivided carriageway with a 110km/h speed limit. Their response to “sudden events” at pedestrian crossings and intersections were also recorded.
The results revealed that even typing a brief and basic text message significantly deteriorated the steering control of both inexperienced and experienced drivers. A notable difference between the two groups, however, was that inexperienced drivers were less likely to reduce their speed during a phone conversation. Researchers suggest this could be due to the “higher risk-taking behaviour” of younger people, as well as a tendency to underestimate the dangers associated with driving.
Many reports indicate that road accidents involving younger drivers are increasing, with the most significant influencing factor being an overconfidence in their driving ability. This leads to engaging in secondary tasks while driving, such as mobile phone use.
Most countries prohibit mobile phone use while driving, but researchers say that more strategies are required to reverse drivers’ risk-taking behaviour and overestimation of their own skill. Researchers suggest employers consider utilising real-time monitoring to detect distracted driving, or perhaps fit vehicles with systems to identify and caution drivers against dangerous behaviours.