Task-Relevant Smartphone Messages Within Work Zones: A Driving Simulation Study

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: This study explored the impact of in-vehicle messages relative to roadside messages to alert drivers to events within a simulated work zone, in order to determine if these messages can improve driving performance within the work zone. Background: Safety risks in work zones are usually mitigated by design standards and clear signage to communicate work zone information to drivers. Due to distraction and other driving task demands, these signs are not always noticed by motorists, nor are they always followed when they are noticed. Method: The driving simulation tested drivers in two different types of work zones, shoulder work, and lane closure. Participants drove through these work zones three times, each with different messaging interfaces to communicate hazardous events to the driver. The interfaces included a roadside, portable changeable message sign, a smartphone presenting only auditory messages, and a smartphone presenting audio-visual messages. Results: There was significantly better driving performance on key metrics including lane deviation for the in-vehicle message conditions relative to the roadside signs. Furthermore, drivers directed visual attention toward the roadway for the in-vehicle message conditions relative to the roadside sign condition. Conclusion: The results indicate that in-vehicle messaging could provide benefits to primary task performance in driving if the message content is appropriately designed. Application: The findings provide support for a design framework to support in-vehicle communication to drivers approaching work zones and other environments to safely alert them to hazards.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalHuman Factors
StateAccepted/In press - 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors wish to acknowledge those who made this research possible. This study was funded and performed under MnDOT Contract Number 99008, Work Order Number 184. This report was prepared in consultation with and under the guidance of the members of the MnDOT Technical Advisory Panel and others, including Ken Johnson, Victor Lund, Joe Gustafson, Cory Johnson, Milford Ulven, Ronald Rauchle, Tiffany Kautz, Jeffrey Morey, Robert Vasek, and Steven Blaufuss. The research team would also like to thank Peter Easterlund, who was indispensable for his work as a simulation manager and programmer.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023, Human Factors and Ergonomics Society.


  • distraction
  • driver behavior
  • warning systems

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article


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