The use of mobile phones while driving is more prevalent among young drivers-a less experienced cohort with elevated crash risk. The objective of this study was to examine and better understand the reaction times of young drivers to a traffic event originating in their peripheral vision whilst engaged in a mobile phone conversation. The CARRS-Q advanced driving simulator was used to test a sample of young drivers on various simulated driving tasks, including an event that originated within the driver's peripheral vision, whereby a pedestrian enters a zebra crossing from a sidewalk. Thirty-two licensed drivers drove the simulator in three phone conditions: baseline (no phone conversation), hands-free and handheld. In addition to driving the simulator each participant completed questionnaires related to driver demographics, driving history, usage of mobile phones while driving, and general mobile phone usage history. The participants were 21-26 years old and split evenly by gender. Drivers' reaction times to a pedestrian in the zebra crossing were modelled using a parametric accelerated failure time (AFT) duration model with a Weibull distribution. Also tested where two different model specifications to account for the structured heterogeneity arising from the repeated measures experimental design. The Weibull AFT model with gamma heterogeneity was found to be the best fitting model and identified four significant variables influencing the reaction times, including phone condition, driver's age, license type (provisional license holder or not), and self-reported frequency of usage of handheld phones while driving. The reaction times of drivers were more than 40% longer in the distracted condition compared to baseline (not distracted). Moreover, the impairment of reaction times due to mobile phone conversations was almost double for provisional compared to open license holders. A reduction in the ability to detect traffic events in the periphery whilst distracted presents a significant and measurable safety concern that will undoubtedly persist unless mitigated.
Keywords: Driving simulator; Mobile phone distraction; Parametric duration model; Provisional licence holder; Reaction time; Road safety; Safety modeling; Young drivers.
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