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Study Shows Drivers Are Distracted Most by Cell Phones

The study used this sophisticated driving simulator to track the data.  Photo credit: Nate Medeiros-WardThe study used this sophisticated driving simulator to track the data. Photo credit: Nate Medeiros-Ward

A new study conducted by the University of Utah found that cell phones are more of a distraction than anything else for drivers.

The study, published in the December 15 issue of the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, used a driving simulator for the testing. Researchers found that drivers are more likely to miss exits and drift out of their lane while on a cell phone and that the cell phone is a bigger distraction for the driver rather than a passenger sitting and talking in their car. 

“The passenger adds a second set of eyes, and helps the driver navigate and reminds them where to go,” says David Strayer, a professor of psychology at the University of Utah and a co-author of the study.

Previous studies conducted by the researchers show that even hands-free phones are just as distracting to drivers and that the biggest distraction is the conversation. They also discovered that when younger adults talk on their cell phones while driving, their reaction time becomes as slow as a senior citizens reaction time. They also found that drivers talking on cell phones are as impaired as someone with a 0.08 blood alcohol level.

“When you take a look at the data, it turns out that a driver conversing with a passenger is not as impaired a driver talking on a cell phone,” Strayer says. “You see bigger lane deviations for someone talking on a cell phone compared with a driver talking to a passenger. You also find when there is a passenger in the car, almost everyone takes the exit. But half the people talking on the cell phone fail to take the exit.”

“The difference between a cell phone conversation and passenger conversation is due to the fact that the passenger is in the vehicle and knows what the traffic conditions are like, and they help the driver by reminding them of where to take an exit and pointing out hazards,” says Strayer.

So, the next time you want to talk to your friend on the phone while you are driving, go pick them up instead and have the conversation in the car. Then you’re less likely to get into or cause an accident.

 

Source: University of Utah News Release 

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