The performance of drivers at different levels of mental workload

Tracing the physiological response and behavioral performance of drivers at different levels of mental workload using driving simulators.

INTRODUCTION: The use of mobile phones while driving is known to be a distraction factor and a cause of accidents. The way in which different kinds of conversations affect the behavioral performance of the driver as well as the persistence of the effects are not yet fully understood.
METHOD: In this study, in addition to comparing brain function and behavioral function in dual task conditions in three conversations types, the persistent effects of these types of conversations have also been traced.
RESULTS: The results show that the content of the mobile phone conversation while driving is the cause of the persistent changes in behavioral and brain functions. Increased time headway and lane departure was observed during and up to 5 min after the emotional conversation was finished. EEG bands also varied in different types of conversations. Cognitive conversations caused an increase in the activity of the alpha and beta bands while emotional conversations enhanced the rate of gamma and beta bands. A meaningful correlation was found between changes in the theta and alpha bands and changes in behavioral performance both during the dual task condition and after the conversation was finished, was also observed.
CONCLUSIONS: The content of the conversation is one of the most important factors that increase the risk of road accidents. This can also deteriorate the behavioral performance of the driver and can have persistent effects on behavioral performance and the brain. Practical applications: The findings of this study provide a basis to measure and tracing drivers’ cognitive distractions induced by different levels of mental workload through physiological and behavioral performances.

PMID: 32199566 [PubMed – as supplied by publisher]

J Safety Res. 2020 Feb;72:213-223

Authors: Zokaei M, Jafari MJ, Khosrowabadi R, Nahvi A, Khodakarim S, Pouyakian M




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