Don’t Drink and Drive…or Talk and Drive


Dialing and Driving: Photo courtesy of eyebo
Dialing and Driving: Photo courtesy of eyebo

Do you talk on your cell phone when you drive? I do, all the time. Did you ever think about how dangerous this really was?

A recent study found that drivers who talked on their cell phones were just as impaired as drunk drivers and were more likely to get into accidents. These results were consistent for both handheld cell phones and hands free devices.

Researchers at the University of Utah had 40 participants using a driving simulator four times. The drivers drove while undistracted, talking on a handheld cell phone, talking on a hands free cell phone and drunk with a 0.08 blood-alcohol level. The simulation car followed another car that braked at random intervals.
Even Handsfree Cell Phones Are Dangerous: Photo courtesy of zara 1.0
Even Handsfree Cell Phones Are Dangerous: Photo courtesy of zara 1.0

When compared with undistracted drivers, cell phone drivers drove slightly more slowly, were 9 percent slower to brake, displayed a 24 percent greater variation in their distances from the car in front of them, were 19 percent slower to resume speed after braking and were more likely to crash.

The drunk drivers drove more slowly and more aggressively than both undistracted and cell phone drivers.

In this study, the only drivers to rear-end the car in front of them were the cell phone drivers. None of the drunk drivers got into accidents.

Think twice about dialing and driving. And look out for those cell phone drivers.

What do you think? Do you think driving with cell phones should be illegal?

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

bryan kennedy's picture

Yes, I do. But then again rolling through cross-walks, not stopping for right turns on red, and speeding in residential neighborhoods are all illegal as well. That doesn't mean the cops will enforce it. If we do make this illegal you need to back it up with large (>$300) fines.

posted on Mon, 07/03/2006 - 9:45am
private's picture
private says:

Yes i think talking and driving should be illegal because when people talk and drive at the same time they could get distraced by something the other person said or they could be too busy tryin to answer their phone and not look too see where they are going. We need to try to keep people safer and i think one way is to reduce the number of car accidents and if we can do that then i thiink we'll be able to do alot more for the coommunity.But the thing is that if in case of an emergency then there would be a good excuse for talking and driving at the same time. i wonder if it would be ok to make the no talking while driving law but only be able to use your cell phone in case of an emergency. Maybe if we all try that for awhile we could reduce the number of deaths in minnesota.

posted on Tue, 07/11/2006 - 6:03pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

how drunk were the drunk drivers? I think that's an important detail.

posted on Tue, 07/11/2006 - 10:31am
Thor's picture
Thor says:

It's probably not as important as you think. Even a little bit of alcohol in your system will start to impair your judgment and reaction time.

posted on Tue, 07/11/2006 - 11:55am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

yes, but it gets worse when you have more alcohol in your system.

posted on Tue, 07/11/2006 - 12:40pm
Megan's picture
Megan says:

The drivers in this study had a 0.08 blood alcohol level. To give you some perspective, that is the legal limit of intoxication for driving in Minnesota. Typically this means driving after having between 2 and 5 drinks, depending on body weight.

Keep in mind that this is the lower limit of intoxication for driving and there are drunk drivers who have higher blood alcohol levels than this. This factor was not considered in this study. I wonder how the results would be different if the drivers were even more intoxicated.

posted on Tue, 07/11/2006 - 5:33pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

it dosnt matter they are drunk

posted on Wed, 07/12/2006 - 12:16pm
izzy's picture
izzy says:

It doesnt seem like driving while talking on your cell phone can be that much of a distraction...i mean if someone can talk to someone inside of their car you would think they would also be able to talk on their cell phone while driving.

posted on Tue, 07/11/2006 - 3:53pm
Liza's picture
Liza says:

I heard something about this on NPR last year. (I'll try to dig up a better reference than my own memory, but here goes...)

When you talk to someone in your car (assuming that you're not screaming at kids in the backseat to stop doing whatever they're doing or you'll pull over and put them out!), they are engaged with you but also aware of your surroundings and the prevailing conditions. They're likely to stop talking, or to gasp, or to put a hand on your shoulder or react in some other predictable way when you need to be paying more attention to the road.

When you're talking to someone on the phone, however, they aren't sharing your environment. They can't react when someone cuts you off, or the car ahead of you brakes suddenly, or something falls off the back of a truck up ahead.

The bottom line: if you're paying attention to your conversation instead of your driving, and the person you're talking to isn't a second set of eyes on the road, it's dangerous.

posted on Tue, 07/11/2006 - 4:05pm
Liza's picture
Liza says:

Here's an interesting summary of different studies about cell phone use and driving put together by the Insurance Information Institute.

Here's what CarTalk had to say on the subject.

Live Science posted about it, too.

Insurance Web did a feature that includes the following:

"In 2001, the National Safety Council published results of a study that found cell phone conversations were as much of a distraction to drivers as dialing or answering. It was the mental focus on talking and listening that took drivers' focus off the road. In other words, a hands-free headset would not be the cure.

This supported several other studies on the subject of driver distraction. The NSC study gave drivers tasks to perform, then measured their response time to stopping at red lights and breaking. The study showed that drivers talking on a cell phone, whether it was a hand-held or hands-free phone, responded much slower to driving tasks such as braking and stopping."

ScienCentral, Inc weighed in, too, with an article containing a bunch of citations.

But here's the one I was thinking of: It's a study called "Cell Phone Induced Failures of Visual Attention During Simulated Driving." (Also available as a PDF) It was authored by D.L. Strayer, of the University of Utah, and published in 2003 by the Journal of Experimental Psychology.

"By contrast, a conversation with a passenger in the vehicle is often qualitatively different from conversations on a cell phone (Strayer & Johnston, 2001; see also Direct Line Motor Insurance, 2002). In the former case, both the driver and the passenger are aware of the driving conditions and often modulate their conversation on the basis of the real-time demands of driving. In the latter case, such modulation is more difficult because the person conversing with the driver is unaware of the real-time driving demands."

posted on Tue, 07/11/2006 - 4:20pm
Solange's picture
Solange says:

Actually, I think you should have to have a license for driving with a cell phone. They should have a test that you can take to see if you can handle it. The person should have to call the office of the testing place and the person giving the test should try to distract them on the cell phone. Then you could at least weed out the people who absolutely can't multi-task.

posted on Wed, 07/12/2006 - 10:56am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

In order to enforce this rule, there must be heavy punishment towards those who don't observe it.

posted on Wed, 07/12/2006 - 12:53pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

Well, I don't need any studies to know that people who talk on the phone while driving do not pay attention! I experience it every day while riding my bike to work! Today, two cars almost drove into me because they took a right turn into my street and ended up on my lane! In both of them the drivers were only using one hand to turn, the other one was holding the cell phone. This should be illegal and there should be fines that actually hurt, not only 20 bucks.
Not to mention the woman who was applying mascara while driving or the man who was READING a book and all the other ocasions where people seem to think that driving a car can be done while doing something else.
I am also puzzled about the ignorance about how other countries have solved this problem in the past and how it actually reduced the number of accidents. In my home country Germany, talking on the cell phone is already banned for a couple of years, and if you are caught, you have to pay a fine of about 120 dollars and you will get a negative record at the german dmv. Hand-free kits are allowed.
No offense, but I am mad today, because I almost had two accidents today that not at all would have been my fault (except if it is my own fault to use a bike)and I probably would have been injured seriously - JUST PAY ATTENTION AND DON'T TALK ON THE PHONE OR DO ANYTHING ELSE THAT DISTRACTS YOU!Thank you!

posted on Mon, 10/09/2006 - 10:50pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

i am only 12 years old and i alerady think that this should be illegal!!!! i am doing my science fair project on this and i think that talking and driving is a really bad idea!!! i go to woodstock school in india!!! but i am american!!!
BAD IDEA!!!!!!

posted on Tue, 02/20/2007 - 8:39am
bret's picture
bret says:

talking and driving is a bad idea!!!!
12 years old

posted on Tue, 02/20/2007 - 8:41am
margarita's picture
margarita says:

i think that cell phones can be used wheneever but cars yeah accidents are bad but it shouldnt be a law

posted on Wed, 10/15/2008 - 10:24am
margarita's picture
margarita says:

okay well say like you got a phone call and something bad happened if you didnt use your phone and you were drviing how would you knoww??

posted on Wed, 10/15/2008 - 10:25am
OMGaLlama's picture
OMGaLlama says:

I think it's not a big issue to talk on your phone while driving. It's the same as talking to someone in the car, right? Now if you see someone driving with their feet, texting with a dog in their lap, that's just wrong. There's a fine line between comfy driving and mild insanity. :)

posted on Thu, 06/24/2010 - 1:15pm

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