Distraction

distractionI let myself be baited into one of those soul sucking debates that occur on mailing lists.

So, here’s an interesting paper on distracted driving.   The researchers ran a very carefully designed experiment using a driving simulator and then measure maybe a dozen different things as the drivers engaged in various tasks.   They then summed up those measures into a metric they call workload.  What I found surprising is how all forms of conversation are basically equivalently distracting – talking to a passenger, talking on a classic cellphone, and talking on via a handsfree device.   Their scale runs from 1 to 5 where the task that anchors #1 is driving their course, and #5 is an obnoxious task where the driver has to listen to and solve word and match puzzles.

  • 1.00 Driving
  • 1.21 Listening to the radio
  • 1.75 Audio book
  • 2.27 Hands-free cellphone
  • 2.33 Talking to a passenger
  • 2.45 Handheld cellphone
  • 3.06 speech-to-text email system

In the US the legal limit for drunk driving is 0.08, and apparently talking on a classic cell phone is equivalent.   I’ve not found any research on how distracting thinking about internet trolls is.

One thought on “Distraction

  1. Douglas Knight

    A couple decades ago, when this topic first became popular, someone asserted to me that talking to passengers was just as distracting as talking on the phone, but that passengers know when to shut up.

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