Driving While Talking On A Mobile Like Being Impaired

    December 1, 2008

Drivers are far more distracted by talking on a mobile phone than by conversing with a passenger in an automobile, according to a new study by University of Utah psychologists Frank Drews, David Strayer and Monisha Pasupathi.

The study used a sophisticated driving simulator and found that when drivers talk on a cell phone, they drift out of their lanes, and miss exists more frequently than drivers talking with a passenger.

The findings were released today by the American Psychological Association and published in the December 15 issue of the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied.

"The passenger adds a second set of eyes, and helps the driver navigate and reminds them where to go," said Strayer.

Driving While Talking On A Mobile Like Being Impaired

Earlier studies by Strayer and Drews have found that hands-free cell phones are just as distracting as handheld models because the conversation is the biggest distraction. They have also revealed that when young adults talk on cell phones while driving, their reaction times become as slow as reaction times for senior citizens, and that drivers talking on cell phones are as impaired as drivers with 0.08 percent blood alcohol level that is considered drunk driving in most states.

"When you take a look at the data, it turns out that a driver conversing with a passenger is not as impaired a driver talking on a cell phone," said Strayer. "You see bigger lane deviations for someone talking on a cell phone compared with a driver talking to a passenger."

"The difference between a cell phone conversation and passenger conversation is due to the fact that the passenger is in the vehicle and knows what the traffic conditions are like, and they help the diver by reminding them of where to take an exit and pointing out hazards."