Driven to Distraction


Research Proposal

A Dissertation Proposal Submitted to the faculty of the UniversityGraduate Schoolin Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements forthe Degree of

Department of ,University of

May 2015

Table of Contents

Table of Contents – 2 –

Introduction – 3 –

Research Methods and Methodology – 7 –

Research Participants – 7 –

Research Materials – 9 –

Experimental Research Procedure – 9 –

Predicted Research Results/Findings – 11 –

Discussion – 13 –

References – 16 –

: Research Proposal


Technology has made a very huge impact in the survival of the massesall over the world. Fast and better communication is one of theconveniences that technological advances have brought. However, thereare many challenges that are emerging out of this convenience. Everyday, manufacturers of technological equipment invent new and moreadvanced devices with better capabilities designed to make life evenmore convenient (Copeland, 2010). People are free to use theirgadgets at any time to communicate with their friends or do otherthings. While this is quite an attraction to many people, it poses aserious threat and raises concerns among many. The main problemcaused by technology is that people are unable to concentrate ontheir work in order to be productive. Some activities are verysensitive and require one to be fully focused. If there is a slightdistraction, very serious problems can occur. This essay seeks tospeak about how drivers lose concentration on the road by using theirmobile phones, which lead to serious accidents.

The law is very clear against drunken driving. People are prohibitedfrom driving when under the influence of alcohol because theirability to make decisions while driving is hampered. Drivers arerequired to be fully alert since one moment of carelessness ordistraction can cause very serious accidents. Many accident victimshave perished out of the consequences of losing concentration forjust a moment. Drivers are required to pay full attention on theroad. It is expected of anyone handling a vehicle to ensure not allroad users are exposed to any kind of danger. The actions orinactions of one driver have a direct impact on the actions of otherpeople.

There are many people using the roads apart from motorists (Horrey,Wickens, 2006). There are diverse road users such as riders, walkers,and motorcyclists. All these are potential sources of distractionsthat can have serious consequences. The situation is more complicatedin urban centers where populations are higher. The authorities havedesigned various laws in an attempt to curb carelessness on the roadsand therefore reduce the amount of crashes that occur on the roads.The problem of distracted driving should be a concern for all.Everyone uses the roads even if they are not drivers. It is vital forall road users to observe the rules passed down by the authorities atall times. Some American regions have already banned drivers fromusing cell phones. Heavy fines are imposed on drivers found usingtheir phones while driving. These penalties are designed to deterpeople from engaging in activities that can make them fail to befocused on what they are doing (Horward, 2010). If people would bemore responsible and observe the rules on the roads, there would befewer accidents.

Many authorities in various parts of the globe have enacted lawsbanning drivers from using mobile phones. In America, some states areyet to impose this ban. In others, the ban affects younger driverswho are seen to be easily distracted because if their active sociallives. Some people argue that using handheld held devices areresponsible for causing distractions for drivers. They argue thatusing hands-free devices is safer (Strayer, Drews, Crouch, 2006).However, the inherent danger remains the same. It is not just aboutwhat your hands are doing but the level of attention your mind has.When a driver is not fully focused on the driving process, it is veryeasy to cause an accident.

The laws imposed by the authorities to restrict use of mobile phonesare not necessary to save the situation on the roads. People need tochange their attitudes while driving and cease from using cell phoneswhile driving. It is for the safety of all, to willingly avoid usingthe mobile phones while driving. Organizations can develop policiesprohibiting their drivers to stop using mobile phones while drivingtheir vehicles. Apart from improving the safety of the driver, italso eliminates liability on the driver in the event of an accident.If an accident occurs and it is proved that a driver was using amobile phone, then more responsibility will beheaped on the shouldersof such a person.

It is undisputable that using mobile phones while driving can end upin very serious consequences. However, there are more sources ofdistraction to the drivers. Modern cars have new developments thatare quite engaging. Although all these inventions are designed tomake life better, they can be a problem. It is highly recommendedthat drivers should avoid using these devices while driving to keepthemselves safe (Horrey, Wickens, 2006). Drivers are supposed to befully focused on what they are doing. Studies have proven that theattention of a driver who is using a mobile phone is inhibited. Thecapacity of human beings to concentrate on a number of thingseffectively at the same time is limited. Studies prove that usingmobile phones while driving indeed affects the level of concentrationfor the drivers.

One study proved that the ability of drivers to respond to imperativeevents reduces if they are talking on a mobile phone. Drivers arerequired to respond very fast in some situations to escape crashes.Using a mobile phone impairs them so much that they result in causingan accident. However, listening to audio tapes or music does notcause the same level of distraction. Holding conversations, takes thedriver’s attention away, thus reducing the ability to processinformation about the environment they are driving in (Strayer, etal, 2006). Apart from handling the vehicle, drivers are supposed tobe alert for the traffic signs along the way placed to help them usethe roads more safely.

Special equipment that tracked the eyes of the driver confirmed thatdrivers did not notice items they were looking at when they weretalking on their phones. A study conducted in Spain proved that theattention of the driver was reduced by about 30% when a mobile phonewas being used. The same study found that the effects of a hands-freedevice were the same as an engaging conversation held in the car.However, it is safe to hold discussions that are not too engagingwhile driving. According to the researchers, it is a driver’sconcentration was compromised by how complex the conversation was.Thus, mental distractions can have the same effects as environmentalones.

Innumerable accidents occur when drivers use their mobile phones.Although laws have been passed to try to stop this, people still usetheir mobile phones. Drivers need to be fully alert when handling theroad. There are a lot of interruptions on the road that require oneto pay full attention. Talking on phone inhibits a person’s abilityto respond to emergencies. Numerous studies have been carried out invarious countries. All the studies prove that it is indeed dangerousto use phones while driving (Copeland, 2010). People should avoid thetemptation of using their mobile phones while driving by switchingthem off. The aim of the study is to establish the level ofdistraction resulting from use of mobile phones. Talking on phone isnot the same as talking to a passenger. The passenger can help noticeissues the driver may not observe.

On the other hand, the person speaking on phone has no way of knowingwhat is happening in your case. Mental distractions are as serious asenvironmental ones. Apart from causing accidents, using a mobilephone can result in to legal prosecution. Note that, doing anythingincluding checking the time on the device amounts to using it. It issafer to avoid using mobile phones completely. The states that haveno laws enforcing this should do it quickly. It will help to protectthe lives of many people that are at the mercy of drivers who do notcare. Drivers and other road users should not wait for laws to bepassed for them to play their role in maintaining safety on theroads. They need to change their attitudes about this and be morecooperative with the authorities. It is for their own good to avoidusing mobile phones in any way while driving. If it is mandatory touse the phone, you can find a place to park the car and then respondto your phone.

Research Methods and Methodology

This section provides a succinct summary of the proposed researchstudy, featuring the research methods, before providing a briefdiscussion on the predicted results of the proposed research study.The section will first focus on the experimental research methods tobe employed when implementing the proposed study, followed by a briefoverview of the targeted research participants, their selectionprocess, inclusive demographic profile, recruitment, and roledesignation of the proposed sample. The methods section also coversthe research materials anticipated for use when implementing theproposed research undertaking. Finally, the section provides a briefreview of the experimental research procedure as strategicallydesigned for the implementation of the proposed research study.

Research Methods

Research Participants

The proposed research undertaking will implement an experimentalresearch method, collecting data from drivers in the real context,when they are driving along public roads and simultaneously handlingphone calls. Previous research findings suggest that men loseconcentration faster when multi-tasking than women, and willtherefore constitute the targeted sample of respondents. The busiestage group is the youthful drivers aged between 30 and 40 years,predictably taking numerous phones from families, friends and workmates or even customers during weekdays. Such calls will be morecritical if the diver is in the middle-income group of Americancitizens, and regardless of race, the highest risk level is posed byyoung men in personal business engagements for a work life (ratherthan a docile office setting). As exemplified in the graph below,weekdays record the highest number of calls among drivers inCalifornia, in the year 2005.

Fig. 1: Cell Phone Call Volume from Moving Vehicles for California

The study will target an idea sample of 10 respondents, strategicallychosen, rather than randomly assigned, to capture the exclusion andinclusion criteria of the sample as explained above. Local governmentrecords will help identify at least 25 of the candidates whoselicenses were recently renewed, and who can be contacted andrequested to participate in the study. Ultimately, the sample for theexperimental study will include:

  • 10 men aged between 30 and 40 years, of any race, currently running a vibrant personal business and who drive themselves to and from work on a daily basis, all of whom are purposively selected based on recent license renewals at a local jurisdiction

Research Materials

Besides the basic stationary that the researcher will need (includingpens, folders, and notebooks), implementing the experimental studywill also require the use of video and audio recording devices. Twovideo cameras will be specially designed and placed within apersonal vehicle of participating drivers. One camera will be locatedin a position ideal to record where the car drives to, assuming theviewpoint of the driver, to document the environment in which thedriver is headed to. The second video camera will be concealed facingbackwards, to track the eyes of a driver encourse the drive.

Further, outside the normal view of the driver (concealed), theresearcher will place a sound recorder to document what thedriver says when using a phone, talking to self, and or whenconcentrating on driving. All the three recorders will use ahigh-capacity memory card for storage, with two additionalmemory cards available if needed. Upon recording, the memory cardswill then be copied into a desktop computer, with every driverhaving three files (two video files and one audio file), availablefor data analysis. Upon transfer of the files, the memory cards willbe formatted and used in subsequent recordings.

Experimental Research Procedure

Although the experimental study appears complex to implement, it willprogress through a basic systematic process. Upon recruitment of the10 drivers as participants in the study, the first step will be toinstall the two video cameras and sound recorder in the vehicle, inthe absence of the driver. The recording will then be initiated forthree consecutive days, in early evening sessions as the driversleave their place of work and head home. The evening drive willspecifically be selected because it features a time when mostprofessionals receive and make calls to conclude a workday. Suchdrivers are often exhausted, worn-out, stressed, and concerned aboutassorted issues that were significant during the day, to easily looseconcentration demanded of a driver in the evening hours when roadsare often extremely busy. By the third day, the sampled drivers willpredictably have forgotten that they are being recorded. Notably, thedrivers may not feign concentration on the road as will mostpredictably do on the first day, and will most likely have adoptedtheir usual behaviors (Horrey &amp Wickens, 2006).

The research study will therefore select the video and soundrecordings obtained on the third day for each of the sampled drives.The researcher and two research assistants (peers) will make twocalls to the target drivers on their third day, and on separateoccasions during the drive. The researcher will then compare theconcentration of the drivers prior to and during the phone calls,including all other phone calls made to the drivers, unplanned, suchas those received from family, friends and work mates. The plannedand unplanned phone calls will be recorded during the third day’sdrive. Level of concentration of the divers will then be compared tothe environment in which they are driving to, noting the changes thatoccur on the match between these two factors (environment vs.concentration) during a phone call.

Predicted Research Results/Findings

This section of the proposal will focus on the predicted researchresults or findings, specifically highlighting the main effects,correlations, interactions, and statistical significant rations, witha cohesive caption of the proposals’ predictions. It is predictedthat prior to any phone call, drivers will match their concentrationto the environment (where they are driving to), and that during anyphone call received, this match will be compromised to significantlevels. The graph below exemplifies how a driver’s level ofconcentration and eye coordination varied prior and during a phonecall, as predicted for the proposed study:

Fig.2: Exemplifying Graph on Driver’s Level of Concentration and EyeCoordination Varied Prior and during a Phone Call

The eye coordination of the driver during phone calls will be low andlargely inaccurate, compared to the eye coordination with theenvironment prior to any phone call. It is predicted that the complexthe conversation is on phone, the lower the level of concentrationand eye coordination a driver will have. The study will employstatistical correlation between eye coordination of the driver andthe environment, to highlight any significant variance either pro(positive) or anti (negative) correlation, using percentage ratios.

To exemplify, one of the discussion paragraphs used in the finalreport after analyzing the experimental findings will read:

“Empirical research findings generated from the research studyshows that talking on phone inhibits a driver’s ability to respondto emergencies, given their loss of eye coordination when conversingon the phone. A driver’s eyes appear disoriented and uncoordinatedduring phone calls, particularly during calls that demand interactiveengagement such as those made from the office. The present researchstudy established that using mobile phones while driving could easilypredispose serious consequences for driver, triggered by a high-risklevel of committing an accident. The sampled drivers exemplified howhuman beings can only concentrate on a few things simultaneously, butdriving demands total and exclusive level of concentration foreffectiveness. As the findings illustrate, the ability of drivers torespond to imperative events reduce if they are talking on a mobilephone, more so when sudden and unpredicted occurrences interrupt anormal routine as driving through the same road severally in a day.”


The proposed research undertaking will investigate the eyecoordination and concentration of drivers prior to and during phoneconversations, and then compare the level of concentration andcoordination to the environment (where they are driving to). Ofinterest to the study will be establishing whether phone callscompromise or significantly determine a driver’s eye coordination,level of concentration and timely response to environmental factors,in a way that may increase the risk for a traffic accident. It ispredicted that the empirical research study will link taking a phonecall while driving, and the likelihood of an accident. To theNational Safety Council (2012) the concept of ‘driven todistraction’ as will be investigated by the proposed studyrepresents “the distracted driving problem” (p. 1).

It is predicted that talking on phone inhibits a driver’s abilityto respond to emergencies, given their loss of eye coordinationencourse the phone conversation, consequent to simultaneouslyengagement to driving and conversing. The driver’s eyes will bedisoriented and uncoordinated during phone calls, particularly duringcalls that demand interactive engagement, meaning that taking phonecalls while driving could trigger a high risk of committing a trafficaccident. Strayer, Drews and Crouch (2006), conducted an empiricalstudy purposed “to determine the relative impairment associatedwith conversing on a cellular telephone while driving” (p. 381).Most importantly, after controlling the data for the time and drivingconditions, the findings generated from Strayer, Drews and Crouch’s(2006) study, concurred with the predicted finings. In their words,“the impairments associated with using a cell phone while drivingcan be as profound as those associated with driving while drunk” asillustrated by the figure below (p. 381).

Fig. 3: Comparison of Driver’s Concentration, Reaction,Coordination, and Accident Risk when Drunk on When Using the Phone(Strayer, Drews &amp Crouch, 2006, p. 37)

Driving while drunk thus impairs the brain of a driver in the sameration as does talking on phone while driving. This link iscontextualized by Bhargava and Pathania (2013) who experimented “toinvestigate the causal link between driver cell phone use and crashrates by exploiting,” and found that driving while in a phoneconversation limits a driver’s concentration, coordination andresponse time, triggering an increase in traffic accidents (p. 92). A2012 White Paper published by the US National SafetyCouncil termed driving while using even hands-free cell phones, a“risky behavior,” owing to the distraction often caused by a call(p. 1).

The implications of the proposed study will significantly focus onreducing traffic accidents, savings lives and making American roadssafer. Consequently the findings generated by the proposed study willinform stakeholders on the need to eliminate “the distracteddriving problem” and make our roads safer (National Safety Council,2012, p. 1). These stakeholders begin with the drivers, thetraffic-law enforcement agencies, legislative organs, non-governmentorganizations, and relevant interest groups focused on reducing roadtraffic fatalities and occurrences. The findings will guide andinform future regulations and practices aimed at reducing distracteddriving occurrences in the US. Ultimately, if distracted driving isreduced, so too will be the hefty expenses often associated totraffic accidents (health, social and economic), the loss of livesimmaturely, loss of productive manpower, number of orphans and singleparents, and ultimately shape the very foundation of a safe,progressive and developed society. Upon review and approval of theproposed study therefore, the researcher will initiate criticalliterature review for the study, prior to planning, and implementingthe proposed research methodology.


Bhargava, S., &amp Pathania, V. (2013). Driving under the (Cellular)Influence. American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, 5 (3):92 – 125.

Collet, C., et al. (2010). Phoning while Driving: A Review ofEpidemiological, Psychological, Behavioral and Physiological Studies.Ergonomics, 53(5): 589 – 601.

Copeland, L. (2010). Driver Phone Bans` Impact Doubted. USA Today

Horrey, W., &amp Wickens, C. (2006). Examining the Impact of CellPhone Conversations on Driving Using Meta-Analytic Techniques. HumanFactors, 38 (1): 196–205.

Horrey, W., &amp Wickens, C. (2006). Examining the Impact of CellPhone Conversations on Driving Using Meta-Analytic Techniques. HumanFactors, 38 (1): 196 – 205.

Howard, E. (2010). Examining the Effect of Driving Experience onTeenage Driving Ability with Secondary Tasks.

National Safety Council (2012). Understanding the Distracted Brain:Why Driving While Using Hands-Free Cell Phones is Risky Behavior.White Paper. Available at &

Strayer, D., Drews, F., &amp Crouch, D. (2006). A Comparison of theCell Phone Driver and the Drunk Driver. Human Factors, 48 (2):381 – 391.

Strayer, D., Drews, F., &amp Crouch, D. (2006). A Comparison of theCell Phone Driver and the Drunk Driver. Human Factors: The Journalof the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society, 381 – 391.