Given evidence of effects of mobile phone use on driving, and also legislation, many careful drivers refrain from answering their phones when driving. However, the distracting influence of a call on driving, even in the context of not answering, has not been examined. Furthermore, given that not answering may be contrary to an individual's normal habits, this study examined whether distraction caused by the ignored call varies according to normal intention to answer whilst driving. That is, determining whether the effect is more than a simple matter of noise distraction. Participants were 27 young drivers (18-29 years), all regular mobile users. A Theory of Planned Behaviour questionnaire examined predictors of intention to refrain from answering calls whilst driving. Participants provided their mobile phone number and were instructed not to answer their phone if it were to ring during a driving simulation. The simulation scenario had seven hazards (e.g. car pulling out, pedestrian crossing) with three being immediately preceded by a call. Infractions (e.g. pedestrian collisions, vehicle collisions, speed exceedances) were significantly greater when distracted by call tones than with no distraction. Lower intention to ignore calls whilst driving correlated with a larger effect of distraction, as was feeling unable to control whether one answered whilst driving (Perceived Behavioural Control). The study suggests that even an ignored call can cause significantly increased infractions in simulator driving, with pedestrian collisions and speed exceedances being striking examples. Results are discussed in relation to cognitive demands of inhibiting normal behaviour and to drivers being advised to switch phones off whilst driving.
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