Lab Projects

How does distraction harm us?

Much of the work on the VIP lab centers on understanding the negative impacts of technology on safety, particularly on driving. Part of the work examines the theoretical underpinnings of shared attention between language and performance (see Atchley, Dressel, Jones, Burson & Marshall, 2011, below). Much of the work has theoretical and applied underpinnings. For example, work by Mark Chan has shown that sometimes there might be benefits to occasional distraction when we are bored while driving, but that the effect is small compared to the risks incurred (see Atchley & Chan, 2011, below).

How can we shape technology to suit our needs?

Much of our work examines how distraction in cars leads to increased crash risk, and how we can manage that risk. As part of the Adaptive Information Displays project funded by KU Transportation Research Institute and with collaborators from engineering and design, we have developed a “smart cockpit” for the driving simulator to test how technologies might adapt to the driver, rather than the other way around.

Why are we so attracted to technologies that might harm us?

A number of projects in the lab examine the mind of the distracted driver. Recent work with undergraduates and graduate student collaborators has shown that knowing the risk that distraction causes does not lead to decreased risky behavior (see Atchley, Atwood & Boulton, 2011 and Nelson, Atchley & Little, 2009, below, and that there is a disconnect between our attitudes toward drunk drivers and texting drivers that cause a crash (see Atchley, Hadlock & Lane, in press, below). Other work under review with former undergraduate Amelia Warden shows that while we may not be truly addicted to texting, for example, we feel we need the information immediately and are compulsive about engaging with technology to get it.

Recent Publications

Atchley, P., Hadlock, C. & Lane, S. (2012). Stuck in the 70s: The role of social norms in distracted driving. Accident Analysis & Prevention, 40, 279-284.

Atchley, P., Hooker, E., Kroska, E., & Gilmour, A. (2012). Validation of an Online Orientation Seminar to Improve Career and Major Preparedness. Teaching of Psychology, 39, 146-151.

Deboeck, P. R., Paul A., Chan, M., Geldhof, J., & Fries, C. (2012). Using Momentary Derivative Estimates To Gauge Driver Performance. Advances in Transportation Studies, 183–192.

Atchley, P. (2011). Smart phones and dumb drivers: The limits of cognitive ergonomics. (Editorial). Journal of Ergonomics. doi:10.4172/2165-7556.1000e101.

Atchley, P., Dressel, J., Jones, T.C., Burson, R. & Marshall, D. (2011). Talking and driving: Applications of crossmodal action reveal a special role for spatial language. Psychological Research, 75, 525-534.

Atchley, P. & Chan, M. (2011). Potential benefits and costs of concurrent task engagement to maintain vigilance: A driving simulator investigation. Human Factors, 53, 3-12.

Atchley, P., Atwood, S. & Boulton, A. (2011). The choice to text and drive in younger drivers: How attitudes may shape behavior. Accident Analysis & Prevention, 43. 134-142.

Shi, J., Bai, Y., Tao, L. & Atchley, P. (2011). A model of Chinese drivers’ scrambling behaviors. Accident Analysis & Prevention, 43. 1540-1546.

Shi, J., Bai, Y., Ying, X., & Atchley, P. (2010). Aberrant driving behaviors: a study of drivers in Beijing. Accident Analysis & Prevention, 42, 1031-1040.

Nelson, E., Atchley, P., & Little, T. (2009). The effects of perception of risk and importance of answering and initiating a cellular phone call while driving. Accident Analysis and Prevention, 41, 438-444.

Ho, M. & Atchley, P. (2009). The effect of perceptual load on object-based attention. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception & Performance, 35, 1661-1669.

Distracted Driving Research Database and Research Tool References List

Article describing the construction of the database


Distracted driving database (gives the information for each study in a table format)

Database data (with sortable options in Excel)

Database visualizations found here

These visualizations are an early draft that we will continue to work to improve. Though the information in them is accurate, they are intended to be a pilot version of the database for exploration and improvement in the future.

Please note that when viewing the database, it is important to understand that the data is presented in aggregate and what is presented is the overall takeaway from each study. The results are to be used to make more informed decisions but is not intended to be an end-all solution. We encourage you to interpret the results in the context of all the results, opposed to examining a single outcome. This is a work in progress and we will continue to work to improve the tool. We would appreciate your comments, concerns, and feedback on the project. Feel free to contact us here.

Last literature update conducted June 2015.