Drunk Driving via Cell Phone Drivers on cell phones
  Research by University of Utah psychologists has demonstrated that motorists who talk on handheld or hands-free cellular phones are as impaired as drunken drivers.

"We found that people are as impaired when they drive and talk on a cell phone as they are when they drive intoxicated at the legal blood-alcohol limit" of 0.08 percent, which is the minimum level that defines illegal drunken driving in most U.S. states, says study co-author Frank Drews, an assistant professor of psychology. "If legislators really want to address driver distraction, then they should consider outlawing cell phone use while driving."

Psychology Professor David Strayer, the study's lead author, adds: "Just like you put yourself and other people at risk when you drive drunk, you put yourself and others at risk when you use a cell phone and drive. The level of impairment is very similar."

"Clearly the safest course of action is to not use a cell phone while driving," concludes the study by Strayer, Drews and Dennis Crouch, a research associate professor of pharmacology and toxicology. The study was set for publication June 29 in the summer 2006 issue of Human Factors: The Journal of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society.

The study reinforced earlier research by Strayer and Drews showing that hands-free cell phones are just as distracting as handheld cell phones because the conversation itself � not just manipulation of a handheld phone � distracts drivers from road conditions.

Human Factors Editor Nancy J. Cooke praised the study: "Although we all have our suspicions about the dangers of cell phone use while driving, human factors research on driver safety helps us move beyond mere suspicions to scientific observations of driver behavior."

The study first gained public notice after Strayer presented preliminary results in July 2003 in Park City, Utah, during the Second International Driving Symposium on Human Factors in Driver Assessment, Training and Vehicle Design. It took until now for the study to be completed, undergo review by other researchers and finally be published.

Key Findings: Different Driving Styles, Similar Impairment

Each of the study's 40 participants "drove" a PatrolSim driving simulator four times: once each while undistracted, using a handheld cell phone, using a hands-free cell phone and while intoxicated to the 0.08 percent blood-alcohol level after drinking vodka and orange juice. Participants followed a simulated pace car that braked intermittently.

Both handheld and hands-free cell phones impaired driving, with no significant difference in the degree of impairment. That "calls into question driving regulations that prohibited handheld cell phones and permit hands-free cell phones," the researchers write.

The study found that compared with undistracted drivers:

  • Motorists who talked on either handheld or hands-free cell phones drove slightly slower, were 9 percent slower to hit the brakes, displayed 24 percent more variation in following distance as their attention switched between driving and conversing, were 19 percent slower to resume normal speed after braking and were more likely to crash. Three study participants rear-ended the pace car. All were talking on cell phones. None were drunk.

  • Drivers drunk at the 0.08 percent blood-alcohol level drove a bit more slowly than both undistracted drivers and drivers using cell phones, yet more aggressively., yet more aggressively. They followed the pace car more closely, were twice as likely to brake only four seconds before a collision would have occurred, and hit their brakes with 23 percent more force. "Neither accident rates, nor reaction times to vehicles braking in front of the participant, nor recovery of lost speed following braking differed significantly" from undistracted drivers, the researchers write.
"Impairments associated with using a cell phone while driving can be as profound as those associated with driving while drunk," they conclude.

Source: University of Utah Public Relations
The Human Factor
The Human Factor
Revolutionizing the Way People Live with Technology
by Kim Vicente
Routledge, 2006

This intriguing study explores the impact of technology on humans in a wide variety of activities, from using home electronics to piloting an airliner, and calls for a revolutionary change in the way products and systems are engineered.

Remarkable technological advances have filled our world with objects that invite human error - from home electronics and cell phones to medical equipment and security scanner and even the control systems at nuclear power plants. These objects pose a threat because they have been designed without taking human nature into account.

"More and more we're being asked to live with technology that is technically reliable, because it was created to fit our knowledge of the physical world, but that is so complex or so counterintuitive that it's actually unusable by most human beings," Kim Vincente writes.\

What is needed, he argues, is technology that works for people rather than in spite of people. This can best be achieved by engineers and designers paying closer attention to human anatomy and behaviors and social systems, and by consumers and citizens realizing the vital stake they have in reforming the aviation industry, the health industry, and the way we live day-to-day with technology.

"The negative impact of technology on contemporary society goes well beyond the frustrations caused by the myriad user-unfriendly widgets that surround us in the modern world. The negative impact is also clear in much larger problems, like the terrifying impact of fatal medical errors, the irreversible devastation of our natural environment, the deadly threats to safety in the aviation and nuclear power sectors, the contamination of our drinking water, and even the integrity of the democratic process."

The Hand Test
A New Projective Test with Special Reference to the Prediction of Overt Aggressive Behavior
Charles C. Thomas, 1962

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