Attention Switching Time: A Comparison Between Young and Experienced Drivers
Simon A. Moss
Thomas J. Triggs
Monash University, Australia
Intelligent vehicle highway systems (IVHS) are designed to assist the driver by providing task-relevant information (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 1993). The introduction of these systems, however, may augment the mental workload imposed by driving. Specifically, IVHS can be regarded as an additional task, requiring drivers to alternate their attention between the system and the driving task. This requirement has the potential to disrupt, rather than enhance, overall performance, particularly in those individuals who cannot rapidly switch their focus of attention.
The present study examined the effect of age, mental workload, and driving experience on attention switching time. Attention switching can be regarded as a critical aspect of the driving task. In particular, the driver must continually shift their attention from one spatial location to another. Moreover, driving entails numerous cognitive processes, such as response selection, memory, and planning. These processes each demand attention. Unfortunately, humans cannot attend to all of these processes simultaneously. Hence, drivers must rapidly shift their attention from one set of processes to another.
Thus, driving performance will vary inversely with switching time. This claim was verified by Kahneman, Ben-Ishai, and Lotan ( 1973), who found a significant positive correlation between switching time and accident rate.