Mobile Phone Use While Driving and Its Impact

Subject: Tech & Engineering
Pages: 4
Words: 971
Reading time:
4 min
Study level: College

Cell phone use during driving leads to a series of detrimental effects on the behavior of the driver. Essentially, this happens when the driver has a conversation when driving during text messaging while dialing numbers on the phone while at the wheel, as well as other smart functions like surfing the net. Notably, the negative uses of a cellular phone while driving are not only visual, auditory, and physical but also leads to cognitive distraction that occurs when driving and using a phone (Anderson, 2015). In effect, this essay seeks to evaluate the adverse impact associated with cell phone use while driving.

There are some effects related to mobile phone use while driving. The first is through visual distraction. This occurs when the driver is forced to look at the phone other than the road. Second is the auditory function when the driver is focusing on listening to what the speaker on the other end is saying, or whether there is a text alert, or whether the phone is ringing. In effect, the driver is not able to clearly hear the environmental sounds emanating from his/ her surroundings (Patten, Kircher, Östlund & Nilsson, 2004). The third effect is physical distractions, especially in instances when the driver has to physically operate the functions of the phone. Last is a cognitive distraction. Attention-wise, the driver will be focused on listening and understanding what the speaker on the other end of the phone is saying to them. In effect, the driver will limit their attention on the road and in their driving. Notably, the use of cell phones leads to various distractive effects. Mostly auditory and cognitive distractions take place when the driver is involved in active cell phone conversations. Further, text messages and use of the internet cause visual, physical, and cognitive distractions.

Cell phone use affects the driver’s performance. One study by Hancock, Lesch, and Simmons (2003) has shown that when a driver uses their cell phone while driving, they are likely to have slower reactions in relation to their traffic environment. Mainly, phone conversations when driving shift the driver’s attention to the speaker. Thus, most of the cognitive abilities are preoccupied on the phone. This implies that they are likely to react slowly to their physical environment as their thoughts are already distracted. In effect, it becomes quite difficult for the driver to notice their car speed, see any road signs. Ordinarily, such a driver will not see that they are going faster than normal, thus, when the need to brake arises, it becomes quite difficult to do so in between their driving speed. Thus, they tend to brake harder and halt very fast as they typically do not understand the causes or actions leading to this.

Secondly, drivers using their phones have less control of their cars. The use of hand-held cellular phones limits the driver’s ability to maintain control of the vehicle on the other hand. In effect, it is tough for a driver on the phone to keep clear lane lines. This is because this driver is trying to focus on listening and understanding the conversation, while also attempting to concentrate on driving. Notably, this occurs for various phone activities like having a conversation, dialing phone numbers, texting, or use of social media (Basacik, Reed, & Robbins, 2011). Thus, a driver is constantly forced to maintain a one road lane as they have little attention to decide whether moving to another lane is timely or not. This also affects the rate at which they adjust to possible road hazards as their attention is more on the phone than on the road. Thus, such an occurrence, like that of a slippery path, takes the driver by surprise.

Another problem with cellular use while driving is that the driver is less likely to notice important road information. The use of a mobile phone essentially while text messaging means that the driver will focus less on the road and more on the phone. A driver’s personal attention will be on the screen of the phone, to determine whether the wordings of their message is correct, other than focusing on possible road changes (Young, Regan & Hammer, 2007). As a result of looking at the road in short time spans, a driver misses key information because their mind is focused elsewhere.

In fact, once in a while, the driver, while look at the road, in the right direction, but not keenly enough to read any sensitive information that would aid in their driving. Further, even when one is not texting, and is having conservation on their phone, their visual attention may be straight ahead but not focused. This is what is referred to as in-attentional blindness. In attentional blindness refers to the driver’s inability to see a conscious object as a result of their narrow vision. This results due to the drivers focus on seeing objects in their direct focus other than those in their periphery (Hancock et al., 2003). For example, such distraction means that rear mirror and side mirrors are underutilized.

There is also an increase in the driver’s mental effort. They were using a phone when driving implies that the driver will apply more mental effort than if they were doing just a task. Such is the effect of trying to multi-task. Essentially, the use of a cellular phone when driving implies that a driver’s prediction, understanding, and perception reduce because the telephone conversation also demands attention in these three areas (Young et al. 2007). However, the effect of the mental load on the driver is directly proportional to the kind of conversation that the driver is having, as well as the driving tasks they are undertaking. For instance, a very formal conversation, with driving tasks like shifting gears while going up a hill affects the driver’s mental load.


Anderson, J. R. (2015). Cognitive psychology and its implications (8th ed.). New York, NY: Worth Publishing

Basacik, D., Reed, N., & Robbins, R. (2011). Smartphone use while driving: A simulator study PPR592. TRL, Wokingham

Hancock, P. A., Lesch, M., & Simmons, L. (2003). The distraction effects of phone use during a crucial driving maneuver. Accident Analysis & Prevention, 35(4), 501-514.

Patten, C. J., Kircher, A., Östlund, J., & Nilsson, L. (2004). Using mobile telephones: cognitive workload and attention resource allocation. Accident Analysis & Prevention, 36(3), 341-350.

Young, K., Regan, M., & Hammer, M. (2007). Driver distraction: A review of the literature. In Faulks, I. J., Regan, M., Stevenson, M., Brown, J., Porter, A., & Irwin, J. D. (Eds.) (pp. 379-405). Distracted driving. Sydney, NSW: Australasian College of Road Safety.