Hands-free kits make drivers even more dangerous
But having a
meatshield passenger reduces the risk
Another study coming out of the University of Utah Applied Cognition Lab has concluded that driving while talking on the phone is a really bad idea, even if using hand-free kit.
The study, published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology (PDF), concludes that driving while talking on the phone is significantly worse than chatting to a passenger, but if you're going to talk on the phone then having a co-pilot helps.
The study put 96 adults in 48 pairs into a driving simulator and got them to drive for 10 minutes while chatting on the phone, chatting to their partner, and both sitting in silence - presumably following a suitable argument about which route to take. Of those pairs only 41 were used in the analysis, due to technical problems with the simulator.
When chatting on the phone drivers were more likely to slip across lanes, and drive closer to the vehicle in front, not to mention missing their exit as they tried to concentrate on too many things simultaneously. Drivers chatting to a passenger performed much better, perhaps because the passenger could also react to road conditions, even when not involved in the conversation - having a passenger on board helped drivers cope with talking on the phone while driving.
Even more interesting is the analysis of the complexity of words and sentences used. Drivers talking on the phone tended to use longer sentences and words, effectively dominating the conversation, while those chatting to a passenger were happy to take a more passive role in the conversation.
The Applied Cognition Laboratory is doing detailed work, though its statement of objectives seems counter-intuitive: "The long-term objective of our research is to understand the impact of using advanced in-car technologies on driving performance and traffic safety." Which would be fair enough, if the statement didn't conclude: "We provide a theoretical account for why cell phone use disrupts driving performance." This would seem to indicate they have already reached their conclusions before they start.
Driving while talking on the phone is clearly dangerous, and one mitigates the risk by using hands-free equipment and keeping calls to a minimum. Meanwhile, the far more dangerous pursuit of driving while being an idiot unfortunately remains legal to this day. ®
I haven't found this to be true at all...
As a matter of fact, I've found it to be just the opposite of what the article states.
For example: When I have my wife in the car, and she's talking to me, I find it much more distracting because she insist on trying to point things out to me. Or, she'll try to tell me how to drive - annoying as f**k really.
When I'm using my hands-free, I just cruise along listening to music, or chatting on the phone with little distraction. Also, if I do need to make a call while driving, I just use activate the phone's voice recognition for that, with one simple push of a button on my lapel, and keep my eyes well on the road. It's easy as...
Granted, I'm very safe and experienced, with about 30 years of driving under my belt. I don't tail-gate, weave in and out like a lunatic, or speed by much. I've only had two accidents that could be considered my fault, and no one was ever injured in them. And, none of those accidents were caused by cell phone use, because they both occurred before I even owned one!
Paris, well, because the little slapper likes to drink and drive!
I'm not ashamed to admit...
that holding a conversation (especially if it gets techie and requires more thought) in a car, just to a passenger sitting next to me, can have a noticeably negative influence on my driving. Fortunately I mostly drive alone, and when I do have a passenger I avoid 'deeper' conversations. I have a PhD (so it's not as if I'm lacking in brain-power) although I am a relatively new driver (less than 5000miles).
A clued-up passenger can pause the conversation in response to the road/traffic conditions which they also observe, and will understand the driver breaking off attention from the chat; someone on the other end of a phone does not have this context. When I'm on the phone (never when driving) then I do use more imagination to visualise the other person - and thus am less aware of what is going on around me. It's common sense.
I know and admit that I cannot multitask. Judging by the well-recognised symptoms of mobile phone driving (25-year old driving like an 85 year old, weaving lanes, too slow, poor judgement...) this is widespread. Why the reluctance to admit it?
Very few phone-conversations can be urgent enough to warrant endangering other road users, particularly cyclists, motorcyclists, and pedestrians - who are especially vulnerable. Mobile-phone driving, whether hands-free or not, is a foolhardy act of selfish disregard for the safety and even life of your fellow citizens on the road.
Motorola used to make a great little flip phone about five years ago, that could be "modifieed" for in-car hands-free use by plugging in a small extension speaker and clipping the phone to the sun visor. Phone rang, I flipped open the phone and spoke. Eyes never left the road. Conversation over, flipped the lid shut and cut the connection. About as distracting as changing gear.
Now I have a camera, MP3 player, movie capture and Azathoth-alone knows what else. What I don't have is the capacity for the extension speaker, the visor clip or the "flip to answer call" option.
Gotta love progress.
How about a study showing how dangerous it is to have an in-dash video display with a GUI for the stereo? I've had two idiots drive onto my lawn at speed because they were refining their ultimate in-car sonic experience and that required them taking their eyes completely off the road (though one of them left large pieces of his SUV on the road it has to be said). If these center-dash screens are safe I'm a chinaman.