Simulations May Not Predict Real Life and Real Life Experience May Not Predict Intervention Effects

There is a long running controversy about the safety of using mobile phones and text messaging while driving.

Simulations show that using a mobile phone has negative effects on driver behaviour – reaction times increases, for instance.[1] However, this is not corroborated by multi-channel electronic surveillance in real driving settings. Phone use, it turns out, is accompanied by compensating mechanisms in real life scenarios. These include slowing down while speaking, and leaving a larger gap between vehicles. Texting while driving does result in considerable increase in risk of poor driving patterns in real life scenarios – not an unexpected finding![2] Does this mean that banning text use prevents crashes? It turns out that crash rates do not always decline and actually increase, albeit ‘non-significantly’, probably because of increase in surreptitious use of the phone causing even greater distraction from the road ahead.[3]

— Richard Lilford, CLAHRC WM Director


  1. Saifuzzaman M, Haque M, Zheng Z, Washington S. Impact of mobile phone use on car-following behaviour of young drivers. Accident Anal Prevent. 2015; 82: 10-9.
  2. Caird JK, Johnston KA, Willness CR, Asbridge M, Steel P. A meta-analysis of the effects of texting on driving. Accident Anal Prevent. 2014; 71: 311-8.
  3. Highway Loss Data Institute. Texting bans don’t reduce crashes; effects are slight crash increases. 2010. [Online].

One thought on “Simulations May Not Predict Real Life and Real Life Experience May Not Predict Intervention Effects”

  1. Vis a vis mobile phone use, it isn’t just the cognitive load imposed by parallel processing that matters but the fact that not all are hands free, so the inattention whilst fiddling with the phone is alarming as I found out as a passenger in the back of a French taxi cab recently

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