Feeds

Drunk driving: No more dangerous than talking on handsfree mobe

'Should be allowed', advise researchers

Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile

Driving with an illegal or almost-illegal level of blood alcohol is often no more dangerous than taking a call using a hands-free device at the wheel, according to new research by scientists in Australia and Spain.

Sumie Leung Shuk Man of Barcelona uni carried out the study in cooperation with colleagues Down Under. He and his fellow researchers tested human subjects' skills in a driving simulator, first under the influence of alcohol and then while handling phone calls on hands-free rigs. They also measured the effects of answering text messages.

"When the conversation using the handsfree was simple, the effects were comparable to a BAC level of 0.4 grams per litre, which is below the legal limit of 0.5 g/l in countries like Spain and Australia," said the prof.

"However, when more attention was required, their alcohol level analogue shot up to 0.7 g/l, which is above the legal limit in both countries."

With a 0.7 blood alcohol level you would just barely be shaving in under the legal limit in the US or UK, indicating that in plenty of cases towards the demanding end of the spectrum accepting a call would be as dangerous as drunk driving even in the more relaxed jurisdictions.

"When answering text messages, the rate stood at 1 g/l, which is illegal in any of all of these countries," added the scientist.

Of course, driving with such blood-alcohol levels will lead to severe legal penalties: whereas taking a call using a handsfree device will not. And while texting at the wheel would perhaps lead to a a charge of driving without due care and attention or similar, it's typically hard for police officers to spot a texting driver and the offence generally goes unpunished.

Of course, the use of hands-free communications (and other technology) while driving is becoming more and more commonplace and despite fulminations from various quarters there isn't any realistic prospect of stamping it out. Many people, indeed, would point out at this stage that in days of old people used to bowl merrily along the road while fiddling with radio tuners, groping about for tape cassettes and generally acting like a danger to all around them: by contrast, pressing a single button on dashboard or wheel and then holding a conversation would seem quite safe and reasonable.

Even though handsfree talking is every bit as dangerous as driving "drunk" ... something which people also used to do all the time, but which is nowadays condemned as the very worst of evil behaviour.

In their paper, published in the journal Traffic Injury Prevention, Leung and his colleagues conclude:

Very simple conversations on a mobile phone may not represent a significant driving risk (compared to legally permissible BAC levels), whereas cognitively demanding, hands-free conversation, and particularly texting represent significant risks to driving.

"Our results suggest that the use of handsfree devices could also put drivers at risk. Although they should be allowed, they require more research to determine how they should be regulated," concludes Dr Leung.

No matter how that pans out, though, there would seem little chance of the drink-driving limits being revised - at least until the self-driving car comes along. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Win a year’s supply of chocolate (no tech knowledge required)
Over £200 worth of the good stuff up for grabs
Facebook's Zuckerberg in EBOLA VIRUS FIGHT: Billionaire battles bug
US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention contacted as site supremo coughs up
Space exploration is just so lame. NEW APPS are mankind's future
We feel obliged to point out the headline statement is total, utter cobblers
Red Bull does NOT give you wings, $13.5m lawsuit says so
Website letting consumers claim $10 cash back crashes after stampede
Down-under record: Australian gets $140k for pussy
'Tiffany' closes deal - 'it's more common to offer your wife', says agent
Internet finally ready to replace answering machine cassette tape
It's a simple message and I'm leaving out the whistles and bells
Swiss wildlife park serves up furry residents to visitors
'It's ecological' says spokesman, now how would you like your Bambi done?
The iPAD launch BEFORE it happened: SPECULATIVE GUFF ahead of actual event
Nerve-shattering run-up to the pre-planned known event
STONER SHEEP get the MUNCHIES after feasting on £4k worth of cannabis plants
Baaaaaa! Fanny's Farm's woolly flock is high, maaaaaan
FedEx helps deliver THOUSANDS of spam messages DIRECT to its Blighty customers
Don't worry Wilson, I'll do all the paddling. You just hang on
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Win a year’s supply of chocolate
There is no techie angle to this competition so we're not going to pretend there is, but everyone loves chocolate so who cares.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.