U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

The musical road: Interacting with a portable music player in the city and on the highway

NCJ Number
Date Published
September 2014
7 pages

This study examined whether drivers adopt compensatory strategies or tactics when driving in more demanding settings by conducting a driving simulator study in which participants were required to drive either in a city or a highway environment, during which they were asked to interact with an MP3 music player and make a series of either easy or difficult selections.


It was found that participants who drove in the city made shorter glances to the in-car iPod than those that drove on the highway. As a result of this tactical change, participants had better lane keeping performance in the city, which was important given the narrower traffic lanes. As expected, the authors also replicated the well-known effect that more complex secondary in-car tasks are more distracting than simpler in-car tasks. The contribution this paper makes to the automotive UI community is that it provides evidence that drivers adapt to the demands of the driving environment even when interacting with secondary devices. (Publisher abstract provided)

Date Published: September 1, 2014