A couple of years ago there was some work done in Australia on driving while talking on a cell phone which indicated that people on the phone were four times more likely to have an accident:
“This is the first study to pin down the risk of an injury-causing crash if a driver is talking on a mobile phone,” says Russ Rader, of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Arlington, Virginia, US. “The bottom line is that people should not be on any kind of a mobile phone while driving.”
Now another report again shows that talking on the phone makes you a worse driver. This is the summary of a few years of experiments in driving simulators (the article even includes a link to video from the experiments).
I have always wondered about the difference between talking to someone on the phone and talking with someone in the passenger seat as far as distracting the driver. They investigate that, too, in this new study:
“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 cellphone,” says Strayer (psychologist Lee Strayer of the University of Utah). “The passenger adds a second set of eyes, and helps the driver navigate and reminds them where to go.”
What’s more, passengers simplify or slow their conversation in response to conditions on the road. “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,” he says.
I completely agree — with the person in the passenger seat it’s not necessary to say, “Could you hold that thought for a moment, it seems the highway has burst into flame.”
I guess there is even more to it, though. Surely, there is some additional brain power required when you are talking on the phone rather than to the person next to you. You need to imagine a little more because you don’t have any facial cues or body language to work with.
This should be my job. I wonder how expensive a driving simulator is.
Hat tip to revere, who is also strangely fascinated by the subject.