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Page updated June 22, 2012

 Driver Distraction Links

"Driver Distraction" has quickly become a buzzword in press and common use as movements to restrict the use cell phones while driving have been contemplated by city councils and state legislatures. There are really 2 separate phenomena, distraction, in which a task retains a driver’s attention away from the task of driving, and overload, where the driver has too many tasks and/or too much information to juggle. The concern is that as mobile devices proliferate, as their functionality increases, and as tasks associated with them (texting, viewing websites, watching video) become more common while driving, opportunities for crashes associated with them will increase. The research focus of the driver interface group has been on developing methods to assess distraction, examining interface concepts that minimize distraction, modeling driver performance in these situations.

What follows is by no means an exhaustive list of resources on distraction, just some interesting ones.

This is the US Department of Transportation National Highway Traffic Safety Administration site on driver distraction. It presents key information at a very high level, and detais not easy to access. However, It has some information, for example on government programs, that does not appear elsewhere.

National Safety Council

The National Safety Council is a private organization, almost 100 years old, whose role is to reduce accidental deaths and injuries, at work, at home, and while traveling. They support both educational and research programs. They now have a major initiative on distracted driving.

National Council of State Legislatures

The National Council is a bipartisan organization that servers legislators and their staffs in the states, commonwealths, and US territories. It tracks the status of legislation in those organization and provides technical assistance and research to address common problems. It also lobbies for the states collectively with the federal government. NCSL tracks cell phone legislation (search for “cell phones and highway safety”). Since states have the power to regulate cell phone use while driving, the status of state legislation is important.

AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety


The AAA Foundation has funded several studies at the University of North Carolina. The work is well done, often cited, and summarized in several journal articles and proceedings papers. The original reports are on the AAA Foundation site.


This is the Car Talk radio website. It is a popular and entertaining program about car repair on National Public Radio. There is a section on cell phones that presents arguments against using cell phones and driving as well as summaries of the literature. Links to key sites on this topic are provided as well as information on how to obtain the "Drive now, talk later" bumper sticker and stories of device-induced crashes. Car Talk also has some information on telematics, but the quality is lower than that of the cell phone area.

Patti Pena


Patti Pena's daughter was killed in a cell phone-induced crash. She has become an advocate for restrictions on cell phone use while driving. This site provides arguments supporting those constraints, advocacy information, and other related information.

Driver Distraction Book

Driver Distraction: Theory Effects and Mitigation by Michael A. Regan (Editor), John D. Lee (Editor), and Kristie Young (Editors)

This is a collection of edited chapters which summarizes much of what is known about the topic including performance measures, assessment procedures, and legal requirements. In the spirit of full disclosure, Paul Green wrote 1 of the chapters.

Other sources of information on distraction and driving (and more generally on human factors)

The best sources of technical information in most fields of science and engineering are professional journals and conference proceedings, with journals being of higher quality. In contrast to blogs and most information on the web (which usually represent someone’s unreviewed ideas), there is a rigorous quality control process for many journals and proceedings. For them, potential authors submit drafts for their papers to a review panel of technical experts in the field and only some (the best) are accepted for further consideration. Depending on the publication, this can be 10-50% of all submissions, and authors know this, so those who do not have good manuscripts are less likely to submit them for consideration. When reviewing proposals, authors receive feedback from the peer reviewers whose advice they should follow when submitting the revised paper that is actually published and/or presented. In the case of a journal, there can be 3 or 4 review cycles before a tentatively accepted draft is deemed acceptable to print. This review process substantially elevates the quality of journals and proceedings above other sources of information.

Also, in transportation research, technical reports, especially those of the US DOT and European Union are generally held in high regard, at least among transportation researchers, as they too have a scientific review process. However, academics in other fields do not hold the same view.

Sometimes the best way to obtain the latest information on some topic is to go to the most recent edition of a relevant journal or proceedings and browse the table of contents. Accordingly, the primary technical journals are:

Transportation Research Part F
Accident Analysis and Prevention
Traffic Injury Prevention

But information is often found in:

Human Factors
Journal of Safety Research

The primary conferences are:

Driving Assessment Conference
Driving Simulation Conference - North America
Human Factors and Ergonomics Society
Society of Automotive Engineers Annual Congress

Students interested in sources of information on this topic are encouraged to take IOE 437 (Automotive Human Factors) as an entire class period (and 1 assignment) is devoted to the sources of information on human factors and driving.