Study Shows Even Hands-Free Cell Phones Turn Drivers Into Idiots

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]

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9 Responses to Study Shows Even Hands-Free Cell Phones Turn Drivers Into Idiots

  1. hahahha. funny stuff. i was actually thinking about an iphone app that would allow you to text like on a numberpad for those that either don’t like qwerty or need to text with one hand… but clearly that’s not a good idea for an app. though i am to blame for texting while driving. voice to text sms? that could be cool.

  2. hahahha. funny stuff. i was actually thinking about an iphone app that would allow you to text like on a numberpad for those that either don't like qwerty or need to text with one hand… but clearly that's not a good idea for an app. though i am to blame for texting while driving. voice to text sms? that could be cool.

  3. Yeah, it’s not that the phone occupies your hands that makes ’em dangerous to use while driving – it’s that they occupy your mental focus! Jeez, who among us is so vitally-important that constant, instantaneous communication is necessary?

    Are you so critical to the operations of your business, Mr. Bluetooth, that you can’t take off your headset long enough to drop off your kids at daycare for fear that you’ll miss the urgent call that one of your coworkers desperately needs you to stop off for doughnuts on the way to the office?

    A woman I work with text-messages her teenage son during the day – while he’s in high school classes! – to vent about how rough her time at the office has been. Yup, that’s important all right. Certainly worth getting the kid in trouble for using his cell phone during class, which is strictly against school policies. She speaks proudly of how stealthy he is so he won’t get caught texting at school.

    People need to get a grip!

  4. Yeah, it’s not that the phone occupies your hands that makes ’em dangerous to use while driving – it’s that they occupy your mental focus! Jeez, who among us is so vitally-important that constant, instantaneous communication is necessary?

    Are you so critical to the operations of your business, Mr. Bluetooth, that you can’t take off your headset long enough to drop off your kids at daycare for fear that you’ll miss the urgent call that one of your coworkers desperately needs you to stop off for doughnuts on the way to the office?

    A woman I work with text-messages her teenage son during the day – while he’s in high school classes! – to vent about how rough her time at the office has been. Yup, that’s important all right. Certainly worth getting the kid in trouble for using his cell phone during class, which is strictly against school policies. She speaks proudly of how stealthy he is so he won’t get caught texting at school.

    People need to get a grip!

  5. Yeah, it's not that the phone occupies your hands that makes 'em dangerous to use while driving – it's that they occupy your mental focus! Jeez, who among us is so vitally-important that constant, instantaneous communication is necessary?

    Are you so critical to the operations of your business, Mr. Bluetooth, that you can't take off your headset long enough to drop off your kids at daycare for fear that you'll miss the urgent call that one of your coworkers desperately needs you to stop off for doughnuts on the way to the office?

    A woman I work with text-messages her teenage son during the day – while he's in high school classes! – to vent about how rough her time at the office has been. Yup, that's important all right. Certainly worth getting the kid in trouble for using his cell phone during class, which is strictly against school policies. She speaks proudly of how stealthy he is so he won't get caught texting at school.

    People need to get a grip!

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