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Gender effects in mobile phone distraction from driving.
Recent research using a driving simulation task examined the effects of conversing over a mobile phone to that of conversing with a passenger in the number of errors made by the driver. Young drivers (18-25 years) were engaged in a naturalistic conversation in these two conditions and their performance was compared to that of a group of drivers who simply listened to two passengers conversing, or to a group that completed their drive in silence. This study noted a gender difference in that female drivers appeared to be more distracted when conversing on a mobile phone than did the male drivers; and that the male drivers appeared to be more distracted when conversing with a passenger. A second study examined the question of why a gender difference might exist for mobile phone conversations and varied the content of the conversation so that it was either cognitive or emotive in nature. This manipulation not only confirmed the previous finding that female drivers make more errors than do male drivers but also found that the patterns of responses in terms of type of errors made differed for male and female drivers. Overall both males and females made more errors when the conversation was emotive rather than cognitive in content, especially so for the female drivers. Female drivers were particularly prone to making lateral or lane position errors and there was a tendency for the male drivers to make more errors of a longitudinal or temporal type. These studies are aimed at gaining a better understanding of the apparent gender specificity of some sources of distraction for young drivers, with a view to better targeting safety messages to this at-risk group of drivers.