Mobile telephones and other communication devices and their impact on traffic safety: a review of the literature

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VTI was commissioned by the Swedish Government to compile relevant research on mobile phone and other communication device usage whilst driving. Thus, a sub-set of those activities that can distract a driver in traffic are treated in the compilation.

A review of several hundred publications reveals that the topic is very complex. Even though a large number of controlled studies show that using a mobile telephone while driving has a negative impact on driving performance, this was not reflected by a strong increase in crash rates in real traffic. Both the conversation itself and manipulating a telephone have negative effects on driving performance. When writing a SMS or using a telephone in a similar manner the driver takes the eyes off the road, often several times consecutively, and at times for longer periods of time. This results in decreased control of the vehicle and an increased risk that the driver misses crucial events in traffic. During a telephone conversation the driver does tend to look at the road, but nevertheless also conversation research has found prolonged reaction times and missed traffic events. Many drivers think that it is safer to use a hands-free set than a handheld telephone, but this has not been confirmed by the available research. Most EU countries have hands-free requirements, however, many drivers do not comply with the legislation. Bans on handheld mobile phones and on texting when driving do not appear to reduce the number of crashes.

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