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Distraction and focus: why is phone use by drivers a problem?

Are you a focused driver poster

On 20th May, Gemma Briggs, Senior Lecturer in Psychology in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, presented the second seminar in a series of Open Psychology Research Centre talks for students. A Q&A session with the audience followed, moderated by the Centre's Directors, Professor Paul Stenner and Professor Peter Hegarty.

The talk, titled 'Distraction and focus: why is phone use by drivers a problem?', discussed research findings on hands-free mobile phone use by drivers. 

Gemma's research into the cognitive roots of distraction imposed by phone use explains how and why phone use increases crash risk and reduces hazard detection ability. During the talk, Gemma explained the phenomenon of 'inattention blindness' and allowed attendees to test their multitasking skills. 

Gemma's research findings have since been used to challenge legislation and inform safety campaigns, highlighting that legal phone use does not equate to safe phone use.

Within the presentation, Gemma shared some of the OpenLearn resources she has created based on her research, which challenges drivers to face the limits of their multitasking ability using a gamified approach. 

There were plenty of questions from attendees, leading to a discussion on phone engagement, types of distraction, and the challenges of communicating research findings to drivers who consider themselves to be 'above average' at driving. 

Watch the talk and the Q&A session here.

To learn more about Gemma's research, visit the Driving Change project website.

You can find out more about the impact of this work in this video .

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