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Driving While on Cell Phone Worse Than Driving
People Who Talk to Themselves Arent Crazy, Theyre Actually Geniuses
Related issue: Tech Neck
Driving While on Cell Phone Worse Than
Driving While Drunk
Maneuvering through traffic while talking on the phone increases the likelihood of an accident five-fold and is actually more dangerous than driving drunk, U.S. researchers report.
That finding held true whether the driver was holding a cell phone or using a hands-free device, the researchers noted.
"As a society, we have agreed on not tolerating the risk associated with drunk driving," said researcher Frank Drews, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Utah. "This study shows us that somebody who is conversing on a cell phone is exposing him or herself and others to a similar risk -- cell phones actually are a higher risk," he said.
His team's report appears in the summer issue of the journal Human Factors.
In the study, 40 people followed a pace car along a prescribed course, using a driving simulator. Some people drove while talking on a cell phone, others navigated while drunk (meaning their blood-alcohol limit matched the legal limit of 0.08 percent), and others drove with no such distractions or impairments.
"We found an increased accident rate when people were conversing on the cell phone," Drews said. Drivers on cell phones were 5.36 times more likely to get in an accident than non-distracted drivers, the researchers found.
The phone users fared even worse than the inebriated, the Utah team found. There were three accidents among those talking on cell phones -- all of them involving a rear-ending of the pace car. In contrast, there were no accidents recorded among participants who were drunk, or the sober, cell-phone-free group.
The bottom line: Cell-phone use was linked to "a significant increase in the accident rate," Drews said.
He said there was a difference between the behaviors of drunk drivers and those who were talking on the phone. Drunk drivers tended to be aggressive, while those talking on the phone were more sluggish, Drews said.
In addition, the researchers found talking on the cell phone reduce reaction time by 9 percent in terms of braking and 19 percent in terms of picking up speed after braking. "This is significant, because it has an impact on traffic as a system," Drews said. "If we have drivers who are taking a lot of time in accelerating once having slowed down, the overall flow of traffic is dramatically reduced," he said.
In response to safety concerns, some states have outlawed the use of hand-held cell phones while driving. But that type of legislation may not be effective, because the Utah researchers found no difference in driver performance whether the driver was holding the phone or talking on a hands-free model.
"We have seen again and again that there is no difference between hands-free and hand-held devices," Drews said. "The problem is the conversation," he added.
According to Drews, drivers talking on the phone are paying attention to the conversation -- not their driving. "Drivers are not perceiving the driving environment," he said. "We found 50 percent of the visual information wasn't processed at all -- this could be a red light. This increases the risk of getting into an accident dramatically," he said.
The reason that there aren't more accidents linked to cell phone use is probably due to the reactions of other -- more alert -- drivers, Drews said. "Currently, our system seems to be able to handle 8 percent of cell-phone drivers, because other drivers are paying attention," he said. "They are compensating for the errors these drivers are causing," he speculated.
This is a growing public health problem, Drews said. As more people are talking and driving, the accident rate will go up, he said.
One expert agreed that driving and cell phone use can be a deadly mix.
"We don't believe talking on a cell phone while driving is safe," said Rae Tyson, a spokesman for the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). "It is a level of distraction that can affect your driving performance," he said.
NHTSA has just completed a study that showed that 75 percent of all traffic accidents were preceded by some type of driver distraction, Tyson said.
Tyson pointed out that talking on the phone is very different than talking to the person in the passenger seat. "If you are engaged in a conversation with a passenger, the passenger has some situational awareness, whereas a person on the phone has no idea what you are dealing with on the road," he said.
"Our recommendation is that you should not talk on the phone while driving, whether it's a hand-held or hand-free device," Tyson said. "We realize that a lot of people believe that they can multi-task, and in a lot of situations they probably can, but it's that moment when you need your full attention, and it's not there because you are busy talking, that you increase the likelihood that you are going to be involved in a crash," he said.
Tyson also sees this as a growing public health issue. "Every time we do a survey, there are more people using cell phones while driving," he said. "And the popularity of hand-held devices like Palm Pilots or Blackberries, and people using them in the car, is another problem," he added.
An industry spokesman said cell phones don't cause accidents, people do.
"If cell phones were truly the culprit some studies make them out to be, it's only logical that we'd see a huge spike in the number of accidents [since their introduction]," said John Walls, a vice president at the industry group, the Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association-The Wireless Association. "To the contrary, we've experienced a decline in accidents, and an even more impressive decline in the accident rate per million miles driven," he said.
"We believe educating drivers on how to best handle all of the
possible distractions when you're behind the wheel is the most
effective means to make better drivers, and that legislation focusing
on a specific behavior falls short of that well-intended goal and
creates a false sense of security," Walls said.
Talk to Themselves Arent Crazy, Theyre Actually
Theres nothing quite like catching weird glances in the halls at work or in the checkout line at the grocery store and realizing that you were talking out loud to yourself in public. Its enough to make you feel a little batty, but if this has ever happened to you good news!
Youre a genius.
I mean, this should be a no-brainer, right? After all, some of the smartest people in history talk to themselves: poets, writers, philosophers, every one! Even Einstein used to repeat his sentences to himself softly.
But now, we have proof. Proof, I say!
A study printed in The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology claims that talking to yourself makes your brain work more efficiently. Authors Daniel Swingley and Gary Lupyan hypothesized that talking to yourself could actually be beneficial. Their first trial, in which they gave subjects an object to buy at the grocery store, seemed to prove their point. The people who were allowed to say the name of the item aloud were much more likely to find it than the ones bound to silence.
It turns out that talking out loud might not always be helpful, though.
Speaking to yourself isnt always helping if you dont really know what an object looks like, saying its name can have no effect, or actually slow you down. If, on the other hand, you know that bananas are yellow and have a particular shape, by saying banana youre activating these visual properties in the brain to help you find them.
Basically, if you know what an object looks like the banana, for instance then saying the word will help you find what youre looking for. But, if youve never seen a rutabaga, saying it out loud isnt going to be of any assistance at all.
Not that youd ever actually want to find a rutabaga, but in case you do, heres a picture.
It can be helpful for the indecisive scatterbrains among us.
Talking through things aloud can help organize your thoughts, as well as validate difficult decisions, according to psychologist Linda Sapadin
It helps you clarify your thoughts, tend to whats important, and firm up any decisions youre contemplating.
I mean, basically, its best to talk the big decisions out even if its just with yourself.
Talking to yourself about your goals also helps you attain them.
It turns out saying your goals aloud is even better for achieving them than making a written list, which can seem daunting. As Sapadin says,
Saying your goals out loud focuses your attention, reinforces the message, controls your runaway emotions, and screens out distractions.
Its exactly what we crazies who talk to
ourselves have always known were smart, and we give
great advice. Why not listen to it, out loud and wherever you