The effect of cellphone position on driving and gaze behaviour

Academic Article


  • Legislation frequently restricts the use of cellphones while driving. Despite this, many people continue to interact with cellphones covertly while driving, typically by concealing their device in their lap. This strategy leads to frequent diversion of the drivers’ gaze from the road ahead, potentially reducing their driving performance. To evaluate the influence of cellphone use on driving, 30 participants took part in three randomly ordered 7-min virtual reality driving simulations. In each condition, drivers were presented with either (a) no cellphone, (b) a cellphone fixed to the windscreen, or (c) a cellphone positioned at lap level. Their task was to maintain road position and observe speed limits while answering maths problems (delivered intermittently via ‘text message’) and searching for external target objects. Outcome measures included speed, lane position standard deviation (LPSD), and fixation behaviour, which were compared between trials. In trials where a cellphone was present, participants shifted fixation more frequently, drove approximately 6 km/h faster, exhibited a lower LPSD and spent more time in the correct lane on the road (compared to the no-cellphone condition; all p < 0.001). Cellphone position influenced eye gaze behaviour, with drivers looking at the cellphone less frequently, and the speedometer more frequently. when the cellphone was in their lap compared to when the cellphone was positioned on the windscreen. Our results are consistent with participants driving more cautiously—checking speed and lane position more frequently—when they have a cellphone in the lap. Real-world driving data would be useful to determine whether this change in driving behaviour we observed is sufficient to offset the increased risk introduced by spending less time looking at the road ahead.
  • Authors

    Published In

  • Scientific Reports  Journal
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Turnbull PRK; Khanal S; Dakin SC
  • Volume

  • 11
  • Issue

  • 1