The New York Times has a fairly comprehensive article on the research showing that driving while phoning is pretty darn dangerous. How dangerous? It’s as bad as driving drunk…literally. You’re about 4 times more likely to cause an accident while talking on the phone – even if it’s a hands-free device (bummer).
I like this article because it talks about WHY it’s so bad. The upshot is that the brain can’t multitask efficiently enough, but it’s also a visual processing issue. You would think that you would be able to look at the road and talk on the phone at the same time, but in fact eye-tracking studies show that your eyes DO wander off the road while talking on the phone (eye movements can be related to processing linguistic data – fascinating…unless you’re running a red light). As you can imagine, texting (where you DO consciously look) is even worse.
I admit that I am intrigued that talking to passengers isn’t as distracting (or at least not that I’ve seen). I can’t tell if it’s because the audio is better (i.e. live vs over the wire) or if the other passenger is able to watch the road too.
The other aspect that is or isn’t interesting according to your perspective is that some researchers feel that there’s enough of a dopamine kick in using these devices to fuel the practice…even though most people realize it’s a bad idea when others do it. Who knew being connected could give you such a buzz?
But believe or not, I don’t want to take the cell phone away – I’m a user myself. I also don’t want to disparage multitasking. I am writing this post with 8 applications open and iTunes playing classic pop in my headphones. No, I have nothing against multitasking in the proper context of an office cubicle. I just don’t want to be the person you hit while you were talking on the cell phone…