Multi-Tasking Dangers of Cell Phone Use in Cars | Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp

With growing concern of the alarming increase in driving accidents, the National Highway Safety Administration estimates that drivers using a hand-held device are at 1.3 times greater risk of a crash or near crash, and at three times the risk when dialing, compared with others who are simply driving. These conclusions were based on research from the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, which placed cameras inside cars to monitor drivers for more than a year. This exhaustive study found handheld devices such as cellphones to be the most common cause of driver distraction.

Research also showed that drivers talking with fellow passengers did not present the same danger, because adult riders help keep drivers alert and point out dangerous conditions and tend to talk less in heavy traffic or hazardous weather. So, as it turns out maybe having a backseat driver isn’t such a bad thing.

In their observations scientists noted that there were limits to how much the brain can multitask. The brain has trouble assessing separate streams of data, even if one is auditory and the other visual, said Steve Yantis, professor of psychological and brain sciences at Johns Hopkins University.

It has been concluded, that when people talk on the phone, they are doing more than simply listening. The words they hear and speak conjure images in the mind’s eye, including images of the person they are talking to. Usually, that doesn’t interfere with driving, but the problem starts when a car swerves without notice or pedestrian steps into traffic and the mind lacks the processing power to react in time. In this case there are no memory upgrades to fix this problem.

“There isn’t a shadow of doubt that your driving ability is impaired when having a cellphone conversation, let alone texting someone; studies clearly show that whether its hands-free or hand-held, it doesn’t matter.