Sunday, July 19, 2009


“We’ve spent billions on air bags, antilock brakes, better steering, safer cars and roads, but the number of fatalities has remained constant,” said David Strayer, a psychology professor at the University of Utah and a leading researcher in the field of distracted driving.

“Our return on investment for those billions is zero,” he added. “And that’s because we’re using devices in our cars.”

The NYT, in an article on using cellphones while driving.

However, most US state legislatures are unwilling to do anything.

What about hands-free?

Scientists note that there are limits to how much the brain can multitask. The brain has trouble assessing separate streams of information — even if one is visual and the other aural, said Steve Yantis, professor of psychological and brain sciences at Johns Hopkins University.

Further, he said, when people talk on the phone, they are doing more than simply listening. The words conjure images in the mind’s eye, including images of the person they are talking to. That typically doesn’t interfere with driving. The problem starts when a car swerves unexpectedly or a pedestrian steps into traffic, he said, and the mind lacks the processing power to react in time.

“There is zero doubt that one’s driving ability is impaired when one is trying to have a cellphone conversation — whether hands-free or hand-held, it doesn’t matter,” said David E. Meyer, professor of psychology at the University of Michigan.

In fact, some scientists argue that hands-free laws make driving riskier by effectively condoning the practice. As early as July 2003, researchers at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reached that conclusion based on what they referred to, in a proposed draft of a cellphone policy for the agency, as “a significant body of research worldwide.”

The draft policy said: “We are convinced that legislation forbidding the use of handheld cellphones while driving will not be effective since it will not address the problem. In fact, such legislation may erroneously imply that hands-free phones are safe to use while driving.”

The agency’s current advice is that people should not use cellphones while driving and that hands-free devices do not eliminate the risks of distracted driving.

1 comment:

jim cline said...

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