FYI: Driving Impairs Conversation On Cell Phones

Image Credit: NEastPhilly.comImage Credit: Yes. You read right.  You've heard that cell phones distract drivers.  Now, for the first time, a study has proven that driving distracts a driver from those cell phone conversations!

Gary Dell, a psycholinguist at the University of Illinois, and fellow researchers embarked on a new study to see how much driving influenced the driver's ability to converse.  Two previous studies concluded that driving had no influence on conversational ability.

The research was conducted in a driving simulator at Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology, a department of the University. The participants numbered 96; half were over the age of 65 and half were in their late teens or early 20's.  Members of the group formed driver/conversation partner pairs.  The conversation partners were either in the simulator with the drivers or talked to the drivers via hands-free cell phones.

Drivers had to listen to and repeat brief stories that were told to them by their partners - stories they had not heard before.  First, using a headphone and microphone, the drivers were told a story while just sitting in the simulator; they were then asked to repeat the story.  Later the drivers were told a story in the same manner while they were driving the simulator through heavy traffic, and they were asked to repeat these stories.

Though it was expected that the older subjects would generally forget more story content than the younger ones, the results showed that even with that difference taken into consideration, both the older and younger groups remembered only about 80 percent of what was told to them.  Additionally, both groups retained less memory of the conversations as driving situations became more difficult to maneuver.

Psychology professor Art Kramer, who participated in the research summarized the results rather succinctly: "This study shows that various aspects of language go to hell when you're driving."  

"The relative balance of attention to any two tasks is going to vary," Dell said.

(So, for all of you who think you can walk and chew gum at the same time, you can't.  So, there!)

"With modern technology, we're talking more and more while we are doing other things," Dell continued, "but we may be understanding one another less and less."


via EurekAlert