The effect of distraction modality on driver performance

  • TL Louw
  • S Zschernack
  • M Göbel
Keywords: driver distraction, driver safety, in-vehicle tasks, multiple resource theory, human-machine interface


The increased implementation of in-vehicle information systems presented in the different perceptual modalities and the implications this has on driver distraction has prompted a research focus in this area. The present study investigated the effect of attending to a secondary comprehension task in three different perceptual modalities on driver performance. Twenty four students participated. There were three modality conditions (central visual, peripheral visual, auditory) and two difficulty conditions (low and high). The central vision condition presented text in the central visual field, the peripheral visual condition presented text in the horizontal periphery, while pre-recorded texts were played in the auditory condition. Results confirmed that driving performance decreases with concurrent secondary task attention in any perceptual modality. Auditory distraction degrades driver performance the least (~19%) compared to pure driving, followed by central visual distraction (~31%) followed by peripheral visual distraction (~54%). These differences can be attributed to superior time-sharing of the audio-visual dichotomy, as predicted by multiple resource theory.

Keywords: driver distraction; driver safety; in-vehicle tasks; multiple resource theory; human-machine interface.


Journal Identifiers

print ISSN: 1010-2728