A Roadside Study of Observable Driver Distractions

Mark J.M. Sullman, Francesc Prat, Duygu Kuzu Tasci

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: This study investigated the prevalence of observable distractions while driving and the effect of drivers’ characteristics and time-related variables on their prevalence. Methods: Using roadside observation, 2 independent observers collected data at 4 randomly selected locations in St. Albans, UK. Results: Of the 10,984 drivers observed, 16.8% were engaged in a secondary task, with talking to passengers being the most common distraction (8.8%), followed by smoking (1.9%) and talking on a hands-free mobile phone (1.7%). An additional 1.0% were observed talking on a handheld phone, and the rest of the distractions (e.g., texting, drinking) were recorded in less than 1% of the drivers observed. Gender-related differences were found for a number of different distractions (i.e., talking to passengers, drinking, and handheld mobile phone conversations), but age emerged as a significant predictor for most secondary tasks, including talking to passengers, smoking, hands-free mobile phone use, handheld mobile phone use, texting/keying numbers, drinking, and engagement in any type of distraction (all distractions combined). The overall pattern for age was that middle-aged and older drivers were less likely to be distracted than younger drivers. Conclusions: This work provides further evidence of the relatively high rate of distracted driving in the UK. The findings clearly indicate that younger drivers are more likely to drive distracted, which probably contributes to their higher crash rates.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)552-557
Number of pages6
JournalTraffic Injury Prevention
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • cell phone
  • driver characteristics
  • driver distraction
  • mobile phone
  • observational survey


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