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PSY 355 Psychology & Media in the Digital Age

This page was last modified on Feb 28, 2017

The Neuropsychology of Media • II (Outline)

Distracted Driving: The Automobile as Media Setting

2014 Mazda • Mazda 3 • Best Affordable Compact Car (USNWR)
MSRP of $18,445
Mazda 3
                      Dashboard & Steering Wheel
2014 Subaru • Subaru Outback • Best Wagon (USNWR)
MSRP ca. $30,000
                        Dashboard & Drivers Seat
The contemporary automobile (car, wagon, SUV) serves as a hybrid media form which provides
  • a means of transportation
  • an "infotainment" or "in car entertainment" media center

Elements of in car entertainment might include

  • Sound: AM/FM/satellite radio; CD & MP3 players; cassette player; telephone; BluTooth wireless or audio input jack connections for cell phones, iPads, etc.; text-to-audio voice-activated texting or messaging system
  • Vision: GPS* navigation; in-dash information center (speed, direction, gas usage...); DVD; game consoles;
  • WiFi connectivity for passenger Internet use
  • Driving controls: turn signals, wiper controls, cruise controls, light controls (lo-hi beam); OnStar emergency, security,  navigation, and other passenger safety systems

* GPS = Global Positioning System

[GPS Satellites
                      circling Earth]

Traffic Fatalities in the
                      US 2000-2012 Statistics

deaths rise 2014-2016 NYT

Preliminary data for 2016 (National Safety Council)
  • Deaths in 2016 (N = 40,200) up by 6.5% from 2015 (N = 37,757)
  • Fatalities per 100K in 2016 was 12.40 and the fatalities per 100 million vmt = 1.25
  • Earlier changes: 2013 deaths: 35,386; 2014 deaths: 35,398 deaths (no change from 2013); 2015 deaths 37,757 (6.7% increase from 2014);
Note: NSC numbers are higher than NTSA because NSC counts traffic/non-traffic deaths within a year of accident, but NTSA counts only traffic deaths within 30 days of accident
Distracted Driving: Measuring the Effects
[Cognitive workload et al.]

Past research has shown
  • "inattention blindness"
    • Similarly cell phone-using drivers show alterations in brain wave activity in the form of Event-Related Brain Potentials (ERPs).
  • "tunnel vision"
Experimental Set-up

1. None: Simple driving, no other task
2. Radio: Driving while listening to a radio
3. BookOnTape: Driving while listening to a book on tape
4. Passenger: Driving while holding 10 min. conversation with passenger
5. Handheld: Driving while holding 10 min. conversation on a hand-held cell phone
6. HandsFree: Driving while holding 10 min. conversation with a hands-free cell phone
7. Speech-Text: Driving while interacting with a speech-to-text interfaced email system
8. OSPAN: Driving while performing auditory version of the OSPAN mental processing tasks (math & memorization)

DRT Device    Simulator
Experiment 1: Laboratory Control (Baseline)
  • In front of a computer without actually driving, but performing the 8 tasks
Experiment 2: Driving Simulator
  • In a realistic car simulator performing the 8 tasks
Experiment 3: Instrumented Vehicle (in Real Life)
  • Driving a 2.75 mile loop in a suburban section of Salt Lake City Utah while performing the 8 tasks. The driver was accompanied by both a researcher and an assistant who had a redundant set of brakes.
Some Results
P300 Latency

Simulator Results

Glances at Hazards
  Cognitive Distraction

ABC Nightline: Caught On Tape: Teen Drivers Moments Before a Crash
(AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety YouTube: 6'45" Mar, 2015)

==> We will watch this video and then break into smaller groups to discuss the following questions?

  • What are the different sources of distraction you have noted in driving (beyond texting itself)
  • What have you seen happening, e.g., with your parents, your friends, others?
  • Is there anything that you think could convince people to drive in a safer way?