Driver distraction in an unusual environment: effects of text-messaging in tunnels

Christina M Rudin-Brown
Kristie L Young
Michael G Lenné
Ruggero Ceci

The use of mobile phones and other portable devices while driving can be distracting and significantly increases the risk of being involved in a collision. Compared to highway driving, driving in a tunnel environment introduces additional factors such as monotony, boredom and fatigue, as well as limitations in road width, which may interact with drivers’ attentional resources to exacerbate the effects of distraction on driving performance and hazard perception ability. Planning and design of the 17 km Swedish Förbifart Stockholm (FFS) tunnel is currently underway. Expected to be completed by the year 2020, safety measures are a high priority for the FFS because of the potentially devastating consequences of collisions in longer tunnels compared to those that occur in open environments.

The primary aim of the present simulator study is to assess the effect of road environment (tunnel vs. highway) on measures of driver distraction. Twenty-four participants aged 22 to 50 years will drive the MUARC advanced driving simulator while reading and sending text messages using their own mobile phones. Presentation of 7 km highway and tunnel road segments will be counterbalanced across participants. Dependent measures of driving performance will include vehicle speed, speed variability, lane position, lane position variability, and steering wheel reversal rate. The FaceLab™ eye tracking system will measure eye glance location and duration as surrogate, objective measures of driver distraction. Objective (responses to text-messaging tasks) and subjective (NASA-TLX) measures of driver workload will also be compared across environments.

Results are expected to reveal differences in driving performance, eye glance behaviour, and workload measures between tunnel and highway road environments when drivers are distracted. Specifically, it is hypothesised that, compared to driving on a highway while text-messaging, tunnel driving while text-messaging will result in: slower speeds, a more central position in the lane with less lane deviation, more glances of shorter duration to the mobile phone, and increased subjective workload. Study outcomes will have implications in terms of government policy on the use of portable devices in tunnels, and will allow recommendations to be made regarding the practice of using mobile phones to communicate safety messages to drivers in tunnels.



International Conference on Electric Road Systems starts today

Electric Road Systems (ERS) is a relatively new concept with many initiatives on the way. To learn from each other and stimulate new collaborations the Swedish Research and Innovation Platform for Electric Roads arranged the first international conference...


Same survey of road users’ attitudes in 50 countries

At the Road Safety on Five Continents Conference, RS5C, one entire session presented a large survey of road users' attitudes in 38 countries. Results show large differences between countries in many areas, both regarding behavior and attitudes. A new survey...


Good results with alcohol interlock program according to Swedish study

An alcohol interlock program makes it possible for drink driving offenders to continue their everyday lives. In a Swedish study most of the participants were satisfied with the program and experienced improved health. They also reported drinking alcohol more...


Traffic safety in the spotlight

Today the Conference Road Safety on Five Continents (RS5C) opened in Jeju Island, South Korea. More than 220 participators have come from all over the world to present findings and learn about traffic safety. Dr. Young Tae Kim, Secretary-General of the...


VTI will develop simulators for ambulance staff

VTI has initiated a pilot study for paramedics with the Centre for Teaching & Research in Disaster Medicine and Traumatology and Linköping University. The aim is to give ambulance staff the opportunity to practice critical medical tasks in a moving vehicle in...


Unique electrified road opens in Sweden

The world’s first electrified road recharging the batteries of cars and trucks while driving opened in Sweden. The Swedish Minister for Infrastructure, Tomas Eneroth, was at the formal inauguration of the electrified road on April 11, 2018. VTI is one of 22...