Cell phones are common place in today’s technology-driven world. There are now more than 300 million cell phone subscribers in the United States. (Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association, 2010). The urge to multi-task has led to an increasing number of cell phone owners using their cell phones while driving. Despite laws in many states which prohibit cell phone use while driving (Missouri is not among them), studies show that 85% of cell phone owners continue to do so (Goodman et al. 1999). In fact, cell phone user’s spend 60% of their cell phone time behind the wheel. (Hahn, Tetlock & Burnett, 2000).
Regardless of age or experience level, the task of driving is complex, unpredictable and mentally demanding. A direct relationship has been proven between a driver’s attention level and performance. Cell phone use decreases driver performance by diverting the driver’s attention away from the task of driving to the conversation itself (Strayer, Drews & Johnston, 2004). The impairments caused by using a cell phone while driving are greater than those exhibited by legally intoxicated drivers (Strayer, Drews & Crouch, 2006). For example, studies show that using a cell phone while driving causes:
1. Slower reaction and braking times; increasing the risk of rear-end collisions and striking objects in the roadway;
2. Decreased awareness of surroundings, making it more likely to miss traffic signals and slowing reaction time to signals that are detected;
3. Greater variability in following distances;
4. Prolonged time to recover speed after a braking episode; and
5. “Inattention blindness,” which prevents the driver from “seeing” objects in their direct gaze because attention is diverted to the cell phone conversation (Strayer, Drews & Johnston, 2003; Strayer, Drews & Crouch, 2006; Strayer & Drews, 2007).
The result is that using a cell phone while driving makes it four times more likely you will be involved in an accident (Redelmeier & Tibshirani, 1997). The negative effects of cell phone use while driving are the same for younger and older drivers alike (Strayer & Drews, 2004). Owing to the unpredictability and complexity of the task of driving, the impairments created by cell phone use do not decrease with practice (Cooper & Strayer, 2008). Further, the impairments are the same for both hand-held and hands-free devices (Cooper & Strayer, 2008).
No cell phone conversation is worth risking serious injury or death, either for yourself or another driver. So, please … please, do not use your cell phone while driving.
1. Strayer, D., Drews, F., & Johnston, W., (2003). Cell phone-induced failures of visual attention during simulated driving. Journal of Experimental Psychology, Applied, Vol. 9, No. 1, 23-32.
2. Goodman, M.F., Bents, F.D., Tijerina, L. Wierwille, W., Lerner, N. & Benel, D. (1999) An investigation of the safety implications of wireless communication in vehicles. Report Summary. http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov/people/injury/research/wireless/#rep.
3. Hahn, R.W., Tetlock, P.C., & Burnett, J.K. (2000). Should you be allowed to use your cellular phone while driving? Regulation, 23, 46-55.
4. Strayer, D., Drews, F., & Crouch, D. (2006) Fatal distraction? A comparison of the cell-phone driver and the drunk driver. In D.V. McGehee, J.D. Lee, & M. Rizzo (Eds.) Driving Assessment 2003; International Symposium on Human Factors IN Driver Assessment, Training and Vehicles Design, Published by the Public Policy Center, University of Iowa (pp. 25-30).
5. Strayer, D., & Drews, F (2007) Cell-phone-induced driver distraction. Current Directions in Psychological Science, Vol. 16, No. 3, 128-131.
6. Redelmeier, D.A., & Tibshirani, R.J. (1997) Association between cellular-telephone call s and motor vehicle collisions. The New England Journal of Medicine, 336, 453-458.
7. Strayer, D., & Drews, F., (2004) Profiles in driver distraction: effects of cell phone conversations on younger and older drivers. Human Factors, Vol. 46, No. 4 Winter 2004, pp. 640-649.
8. Cooper, J., Strayer, D. (2008) Effects of simulator practice and real-world experience on cell-phone-related driver distraction. Human Factors, Vol. 50, No. 6, December 2008, pp. 893-902.
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