Cellular Phones & Driving: What is the impact of cell phone usage during driving?

3.6 based on 110 ratings

Updated on Feb 11, 2012

Grade Level: 9th - 10th; Type: Physical Science, Life Science


How does talking on a cell phone affect driving?

  • How is our attention and focus affected by cellular phone usage
  • Are there changes in performance when concentrating on driving vs. talking on a cell phone and driving?

As the cellular phone market increases so do the number of users. According to the Nielsen 2010 report there are 223 million cell phone users over the age of 13, roughly 66% of the US population. There are approximately 190 million licensed drivers in the US. Talking on cell phones has become commonplace even in the car. In the 1980’s cellular phones were first outfitted into cars. Today, automobile manufacturers offer options to integrate cell phones so it seems as if driving and talking on the phone go hand in hand? Studies have compared the effect of driving while on the phone to driving while drunk. These effects include slower reaction time and “inattention blindness”.We will examine the effects of talking on cell phone while driving using a driving video game as a simulation.

  • Driving Video Game - video game system or computer
    • Need for Speed (EA Games), Mario Kart (Nintendo)
  • Cellular phone (1 for the experimenter and 1 for the subject).

  1. Have each subject play the video game.
    1. Play the same level/board for all players.
    2. Subject should play 3 times.
    3. Record the scores for all 3 trials
  2. 30 min. break - have the subject perform another task unrelated to driving such as crossword puzzles or other games.
  3. Have the subject play the video game while talking on the phone.
    1. Call the individual at a specific point in the game (30 seconds in)
    2. Have a list of questions to ask the user as well as a story. Questions should spark conversation.

i. What is the weather like today? Where was the last place you went on vacation?

ii. Did you see the new episode of ____ last night? What did you think?

iii. Last week I went to the movies and saw…

    1. Subject should play 3 times, each while talking on the phone.
    2. Record the scores for all 3 trials.

Terms/Concepts: Driving Distractions; What are the physical effects of distractions while driving?;Inattention blindness


Melissa Bautista is a research scientist, freelance editor, and writer, with a focus in Neuroscience. She believes in establishing solid foundations in education through experience, creativity, and collaboration. She is fascinated by pedagogy and the concept of learning through living.

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