By Casey Lynn
Contributing Writer, [GAS]
A new study (PDF) in the Journal of Experimental Psychology suggests that – gasp! – talking on a cell phone while driving might actually be dangerous. Sure, the conclusion is kind of a no-brainer, but the heart of the experiment was to figure out if there’s any difference between chatting with someone on a hands-free phone and chatting with a passenger in the car with you. After all, it seems like the mechanics are basically the same… Wrong! According to the study (which used 41 drivers), talking on the phone made a significant impact on driving, causing them to drift lanes, miss exits, and just generally drive like the jerks that make you yell “GET OFF THE FREAKING PHONE!” to people in front of you in traffic–even without having a phone in their hands. Meanwhile, talking to a passenger in the car had little or no impact.
This fits perfectly with my theory that talking on a cell phone actually actively sucks away at your brain cells. Okay, maybe not… Actually, if you stop to think about it, the findings do make some intuitive sense. It seems to me like an issue of presence–even if you’re talking to someone, if they’re there with you in the car, your attention is still there in the car. The researchers from the study suggest that the driver may even be getting conversational cues about the surrounding traffic from the passenger. After all, your mother sitting on her front porch on her phone isn’t going to shriek, “OH MY GOD, YOU NEARLY CLIPPED THAT 18-WHEELER,” at you while you’re talking to her while driving.
Strangely enough, the study doesn’t address people who text message or check their email while driving. I suspect this is because they’ve all been in horrible traffic accidents already.
[Image Source: Flickr]