Friday, August 27, 2004

Using a Cellphone? Don't Drive.

A Comparison of the Cell Phone Driver and the Drunk Driver

University of Utah
University of Utah
University of Utah

AEI-Brookings Joint Center Working Paper No. 04-13

We used a high-fidelity driving simulator to compare the performance of cell-phone drivers with drivers who were legally intoxicated from ethanol. When drivers were conversing on either a hand-held or hands-free cell-phone, their braking reactions were delayed and they were involved in more traffic accidents than when they were not conversing on the cell phone. By contrast, when drivers were legally intoxicated they exhibited a more aggressive driving style, following closer to the vehicle immediately in front of them and applying more force while braking. When controlling for driving conditions and time on task, cell-phone drivers exhibited greater impairment than intoxicated drivers. The results have implications for legislation addressing driver distraction caused by cell phone conversations.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you read on in the actual study, you'll note that they show that the intoxicated drivers have NO increase in accident rate whatsoever, even though they do drive more aggressively. Interesting.

I assume that this is because the legally intoxicated rate has been pushed down repeatedly thanks to the efforts of MADD and other. Most states have gone past 0.1% BAC to 0.08% BAC as the cutoff point for intoxication, even though scientific evidence doesn't show impairment at 0.08%.

Clearly, of course, there is a level of intoxication which is worse for driving than using a cellular phone. However, it's not at the limit of the current legal standard. In any case, the effects of cell phone use, as shown later in the paper, are devastating.

12:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What I would really like to know is why, exactly, a cell-phone conversation would be substantially more dangerous than talking to a person in the passenger's seat.

Can anyone propose a mechanism whereby having a person next to you causes no impairment, but having a person on the other end of a microphone does?


10:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

1) The person who you're talking to in the back seat can do their part to look out for danger, and either warn you about it or quit talking during those times.

2) People tend to be more polite in phone conversations, and might be reluctant to stop paying attention to the phone call in order to drive better when the situation calls for it, as it would seem rude. (People actually in the car as well can observe the adverse conditions, and are much less likely to take offense as a result.)

4:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When you talk to someone on a phone, there is a disconnect between what you see and what you hear. I think it confuses the brain. It makes sense that reaction time slowed. You're not trying to deal with two space/time scenarios when you're talking to the person in the passenger seat.

8:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Having screwed up and gotten two tickets while talking to a passenger in the passenger's seat, while never having done so while talking on a cell phone with a hands free kit, forgive me if I'm a little hesitant to think that having a person there who you're not supposed to be looking at anyway magically makes talking safe.

And besides, with cell phone data dropouts being so common, going silent for a moment is hardly going to be thought much of, nor would a brief explanation "sorry, I had to concentrate on the road for a moment" be met with anything but "no problem" (unless you have friends who want you dead).

And the mechanisms so far proposed don't explain a complete difference where one is perfectly safe and the other horribly dangerous.


5:45 PM  

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