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Journal Article

An Unbiased Estimate of the Relative Crash Risk of Cell Phone Conversation while Driving an Automobile

A key aim of research into cell phone tasks is to obtain an unbiased estimate of their relative risk (RR) for crashes. This paper re-examines five RR estimates of cell phone conversation in automobiles. The Toronto and Australian studies estimated an RR near 4, but used subjective estimates of driving and crash times. The OnStar, 100-Car, and a recent naturalistic study used objective measures of driving and crash times and estimated an RR near 1, not 4 - a major discrepancy. Analysis of data from GPS trip studies shows that people were in the car only 20% of the time on any given prior day at the same clock time they were in the car on a later day. Hence, the Toronto estimate of driving time during control windows must be reduced from 10 to 2 min.
Journal Article

Self-Regulation Minimizes Crash Risk from Attentional Effects of Cognitive Load during Auditory-Vocal Tasks

This study reanalyzes the data from a recent experimental report from the University of Utah investigating the effect on driving performance of auditory-vocal secondary tasks (such as cell phone and passenger conversations, speech-to-text, and a complex artificial cognitive task). The current objective is to estimate the relative risk of crashes associated with such auditory-vocal tasks. Contrary to the Utah study's assumption of an increase in crash risk from the attentional effects of cognitive load, a deeper analysis of the Utah data shows that driver self-regulation provides an effective countermeasure that offsets possible increases in crash risk. For example, drivers self-regulated their following distances to compensate for the slight increases in brake response time while performing auditory-vocal tasks. This new finding is supported by naturalistic driving data showing that cell phone conversation does not increase crash risk above that of normal baseline driving.