Driving, distraction, practice, training, single subject design, small n designs, adaptation, simulation


A preponderance of research points to the detrimental effects of distraction on driving performance. An interesting question is whether practice can improve distracted driving. The results from the few longitudinal simulator-based research studies conducted on driving distraction have been inconclusive. This may be because practice effects could be confounded with participants adapting to driving in the simulator. Therefore, participants in the current studies were trained until performance reached a steady state prior to introducing the distracters. In this dissertation, two single-subject design studies were used to investigate the effects of training on distracted driving. The first study included two participants who experienced several different types of distracters. In the second study distracters were introduced before and after the training phase. The two distracters selected for Study 2 included conversing on a handheld phone and texting on a touchscreen phone continuously while driving in a city scenario. Previous research has not compared texting to phone, has had relatively little examination of texting and driving alone, and has primarily focused on hands-free phones and on highway settings. Participants drove on a city route which they had previously memorized to add realism to the driving task. Measures collected included speed maintenance, lane deviations/position errors, stop errors, and turn errors in both studies. In Study 2, subjective workload and reaction time were also collected. Findings indicated that training improved performance substantially for all participants in both studies compared to the initial baseline. Participants who experienced six and even nine sessions of the initial baseline did not necessarily improve more than those who only had three sessions. Performance for some participants did not improve in the initial baseline. The lower iii error levels in training remained fairly stable in subsequent baselines showing that actual learning did occur. Texting had higher error levels than phone both pre and post-training. There were no practice effects noticed for the distracters post-training for any of the participants, and in fact errors increased across sessions for phone and especially texting in Study 2. Training helped improve performance during the phone distraction more so than texting overall, although this varied for different dependent measures. Although errors were reduced after training in the distracter phases, the data actually showed that the performance difference between the baselines and the distracters pre-training was smaller than the differences post-training. Based on these findings, it is recommended that researchers conducting driving simulation research systematically train their participants on driving the simulator before they begin data collection.


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Graduation Date





Smither, Janan


Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


College of Sciences



Degree Program

Psychology; Human Factors Psychology








Release Date

May 2014

Length of Campus-only Access


Access Status

Doctoral Dissertation (Open Access)


Dissertations, Academic -- Sciences, Sciences -- Dissertations, Academic

Included in

Psychology Commons