Friday, August 21, 2009

Cellphone driving coverup

Do you talk on your cellphone while driving?

It really is an interesting expectation that we can drive thousands of pounds of metal at speeds humans are not meant to go while distracted - and assume nothing will happen. But accidents do happen. The problem is that we do it once and nothing serious results so we take that to mean that nothing ever will. Near misses for some reason do not compute. But for the sake of myself and to be a model for my children, who are future drivers that are only a few years away from license (gulp!), I'm trying to wean myself from the phone while driving.

But it is so convenient. There are all those ten minutes here and twenty minutes there when I can have a conversation. Or when someone calls and it is easy to justify just chatting briefly. It really is hard to remember when we didn't have phones in our vehicles and somehow we managed to survive (as a teen driver, "survive" is probably the best grade that you could have given me even without the cellphone).

Here is an amazing fact about technology - people can leave messages. Or even if they don't, I still know who called and can call back again soon. If it is an emergency, I can pull over and make the call. So if you see me talking on the phone in the car, you have permission to give me a kick in the rear (after we've gotten out of the car).

What is amazing is that there may be a coverup on the risks. A study on the risks of driving with cellphones is being covered up reports the New York Times. Somehow money must be involved.

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crazykarl7 said...

I wonder how more likely you are to have a crash based on having a conversation with someone in the car. And then if it's higher or the same as talking with a handsfree.

I do notice that the act of answer the phone (finding it, picking it up, unlocking/clicking the button to answer) is very dangerous..

Jeff said...

Interestingly enough, talking on the phone, whether to your ear OR hands free, slows your reactions roughly to a person at the legal alcohol limit. It's actually been reasonably well documented at in the Human Factors research for several years. But for some reason it hasn't gotten publicized.

Jeff said...

Carl - in the HF research the difference appears to be that we can listen and drive (radio), talk and drive with a physical person (shared view of the road), but we have difficulty talking with a non-present person.

It's actually less due to picking up/holding the phone (we eat, drink, and change CDs all the time) and more about the cognitive overload. We have a limited about of attentional resources, and if I'm trying to answer you over the phone I'm not paying full attention to the road. At least with a person in the car they understand if you don't answer right away because you're navigating traffic.