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Thursday, 03 January 2008 20:38

Study shows cell phone users slow down commuters

U.S. psychologist David Strayer concludes that motorists using cell phones slow down the flow of commuters: they drive slower and have slower reactions.               

Dr. David Strayer, a professor of psychology in the Department of Psychology at the University of Utah (Salt Lake City), conducted a study involving thirty-six students driving in high-fidelity driving simulators (made by L3 Communications). The study was conducted at the Applied Cognition Laboratory at the University of Utah.

His results showed that drivers using cell-phones drive about two miles (3.2 kilometers) per hour slower than other drivers; do not keep up with the flow of traffic; change lanes less often than other drivers; remain behind one driver more often than others; and have delayed (slower) reactions to the activities surrounding them.

The objective of his study (as quoted from the referenced website of the University of Utah) is: “... to understand the impact of using advanced in-car technologies on driving performance and traffic safety. Our research addresses three specific goals limited to the most prominent communication technology, the cellular phone.”

Strayer continues to state, “First, we ‘provide unambiguous scientific evidence’ demonstrating that cell phone conversations disrupt driving performance. Second, we compare and contrast the ‘increased risk associated with cell phone use’ relative to other real-world activities. Finally, we ‘provide a theoretical account’ for why cell phone use disrupts driving performance.”

In brief, Strayer concludes that drivers talking on cell phones make people’s commutes to and from work longer—possibly up to twenty hours a year longer than if they weren’t talking on the phone and, instead, concentrating on the road.

Dr. Strayer will present his findings to the Transportation Research Board of the National Academy of Sciences later in January 2008. Included in his results are that cell-phone drivers take about three percent longer to drive the same distance than non-cell-phone drivers in high-congested conditions and two percent longer in medium-congested conditions.

According to Strayer, because one in ten drivers are—on average—talking on the cell phone at any given time, such increased drive times negatively affects the other drivers on the road—making for longer commutes for everyone. Strayer concludes that such drivers add about five to ten percent to the average commute in the United States.

Such studies are new to research in the behaviors of drivers, and more research is still needed to validate such conclusions.

However, Strayer’s research does add valuable information to the affect that cell-phone use has on drivers, traffic flows, and transportation, in general.

It is likely that drivers talking on cell phones could slow down traffic, which could mean less gas mileage for cars, which could mean worse environmental conditions (more pollution from exhaust emissions caused by lengthened commutes), which could also mean more accidents, injuries, and deaths on U.S. roads and highways.

Further research will help decide these matters.

This article is based on an article written by Associated Press (AP) science writer Seth Borenstein (https://ap.org/pages/about/pressreleases/pr_030706d.html) and information provided by the University of Utah (https://www.psych.utah.edu/AppliedCognitionLab/)

[Author’s note: Safety is paramount when driving. The prime purpose for drivers is to “drive” while behind the wheel of a motorized vehicle, not to talk on the phone, not to be applying makeup, not to be shaving, not to be reading a book, and not to be using the laptop computer. Over 40,000 people in the United States are killed each year in motorized vehicle accidents—millions of others are injured. Such distractions are a contributor to that statistic.]

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