Driver reaction time to tactile and auditory rear-end collision warnings while talking on a cell phone

Rayka Mohebbi, Robert Gray, Hong Z. Tan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

162 Scopus citations


Objective: This study examined the effectiveness of rear-end collision warnings presented in different sensory modalities while drivers were engaged in cell phone conversations in a driving simulator. Background: Tactile and auditory collision warnings have been shown to improve braking response time (RT) in rear-end collision situations. However, it is not clear how effective these warnings are when the driver is engaged in attentionally demanding secondary tasks, such as talking on a cell phone. Method: Sixteen participants in a driving simulator experienced three collision warning conditions (none, tactile, and auditory) in three conversation conditions (none, simple hands free, complex hands free). Driver RT was captured from warning onset to brake initiation (WON2B). Results: WON2B times for auditory warnings were significantly larger for simple conversations compared with no conversation (+148 ms), whereas there was no significant difference between these conditions for tactile warnings (+53 ms). For complex conversations, WON2B times for both tactile (+146 ms) and auditory warnings (+221 ms) were significantly larger than during no conversation. During complex conversations, tactile warnings produced significantly shorter WON2B times than no warning (-141 ms). Conclusion: Tactile warnings are more effective than auditory warnings during both simple and complex conversations. Application: These results indicate that tactile rear-end collision warnings have the potential to offset some of the driving impairments caused by cell phone conversations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)102-110
Number of pages9
JournalHuman Factors
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2009


  • Attentional processes
  • Auditory displays
  • Cell phones
  • Displays and controls
  • Driver safety
  • Dual-task performance
  • Haptic
  • Hearing
  • Highway safety
  • Multimodal displays
  • Psychomotor processes
  • Reaction time
  • Touch

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Human Factors and Ergonomics
  • Applied Psychology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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