Researchers sound alarm about the role of any and all phone sounds in distracted driving

distracted driving 2
Credit: Thinkstock

You say you don’t answer your phone and wouldn’t dream of texting while driving?

Not good enough, say researchers from Florida State University, as the mere presence of that cacophonous device in a moving motor vehicle is enough to dangerously distract a driver:

Whether you are alerted to an incoming phone call or text by a trendy ringtone, an alarm bell or a quiet vibration, just receiving a notification on your cell phone can cause enough of a distraction to impair your ability to focus on a given task, according to a new Florida State University study.

In fact, the distraction caused by a simple notification — whether it is a sound or a vibration — is comparable to the effects seen when users actively use their cell phones to make calls or send text messages, the researchers found.

"The level of how much it affected the task at hand was really shocking," said Courtney Yehnert, an FSU research coordinator who worked on the study as an undergraduate student before graduating in 2014.

Just the ring tone? Even on vibrate? Yes and yes.

"Although these notifications are generally short in duration, they can prompt task-irrelevant thoughts, or mind-wandering, which has been shown to damage task performance," the researchers wrote in the paper. "Cellular phone notifications alone significantly disrupt performance on an attention-demanding task, even when participants do not directly interact with a mobile device during the task."

You can buy the study -- "The Attentional Cost of Receiving a Cell Notification" – here and then you can stow your phone in the trunk, maybe with a blanket tossed over it for good measure.

You can. My minivan doesn’t have a trunk.

Join the Network World communities on Facebook and LinkedIn to comment on topics that are top of mind.
Must read: Hidden Cause of Slow Internet and how to fix it
Notice to our Readers
We're now using social media to take your comments and feedback. Learn more about this here.