Driven to Distraction Joe Coyne ¡¤ §³ Coyne Joe Coyne slides into the drivers seat, starts up the car and heads to town. They empty stretch of interstate gives way to urban congestion , and Coyne hits the brakes as a pedestrian suddenly crosses the street in front of him. Coyne Coyne Old Dominion §à But even if he hadnt stopped in time , the woman would have been safe. She isnt real. Neither is the town. And Coyne isnt really driving. Coyne is demonstrating a computerized driving simulator that is helping researchers at Old Dominion University (ODU) examine how in-vehicle guidance systems affect the person behind the wheel. §à§»§»§» ¡¤¨ The researchers want to know if such systems, which give audible or written directions, are too distracting-or whether any distractions are offset by the benefits drivers get from having help finding their way in unfamiliar locations. §à Caryl Baldwin ¨À Were looking at the performance and mental workload of drivers, said Caryl Baldwin , the assistant psychology professor leading the research , which involves measuring drivers reaction time and brain activity as they respond to auditory and visual cues. §à§µÁWî Baldwin §Þ¦¶£ The researchers just completed a study of the mental workload involved in driving through different kinds of environments and heavy vs. light traffic. Preliminary results show that as people get into more challenging driving situations, they dont have any extra mental energy to respond to something else in the environment,
Baldwin said. §¹ §»¦È¨À But the tradeoffs could be worth it, she said. The next step is to test different ways of giving drivers navigational information and how those methods change the drivers mental workload. Baldwin Is it best if they see a picturethat shows their position, a map kind of display? Baldwin said. Is it best if they hear it? §Ô¡¤Baldwin §» ¡Â Navigational systems now on the market give point-by-point directions that follow a prescribed route. Theyre very unforgiving , Baldwin said. If you miss a turn , they can almost seem to get angry. §³Baldwin ¡¤§Ö That style of directions also can be frustrating for people who prefer more general instructions. But such broad directions can confuse drivers who prefer route directions, Baldwin said. §» Perhaps manufacturers should allow drivers to choose the style of directions they want , or modify systems to present some information in a way that makes sense for people who prefer the survey style , she said. §à 60% 60% ¡¤Baldwin ¡¤ Interestingly , other research has shown that about 60 percent of men prefer the survey style, while 60 percent women prefer the route style, Baldwin said. This explains the classic little thing of why men dont like to stop and ask for directions and women do , Baldwin added.