When it comes to modern technology then few could argue that the invention of the cell phone alongside the invention of the internet has revolutionalised the way we, as a society, function. However, there is a downside to the proliferation of cell phones and that is the number of accidents caused whilst driving due to people being distracted by their cell phones.
Texting Takes Lives
Studies have shown that texting whilst driving causes drivers to take their eyes off the road for the longest time of any activity conducted whilst driving. This causes a worse impairment to driving than drunk driving. Drivers who text whilst driving show more missed lane changes, more variation in lane position and a greater variety of closing distances. All of these lead to a much greater risk of being involved in an accident than for any other activity. Even if it is a quick message, or just reading an existing one, you should never take the chance. This is even true if your cell phone is being held in a holder.
Hands-Free is Not Distraction Free
When it comes to using a hands-free kit whilst driving, a lot of people argue that using a hands-free kit is no different than talking to a passenger whilst driving. This is not true, as when you are with a passenger there is a difference. Talking to a passenger means that you have a shared context for your conversation, this means that conversation flows more easily. Additionally, a passenger is also able to keep an eye on the road conditions and provides an extra layer of warning and/or protection whilst driving. You are both able to judge the road conditions and if a hazard is near the conversation with a passenger will generally pause whilst you negotiate the hazard. This is not true of a person on a hands-free call who may continue talking whilst you are having to deal with the road.
How Distracting Can It Be?
As a demonstration to young drivers in the UK a professor conducted an experiment about how distracting a cell phone can be. He had the students line up with their non-cell phone hand on the shoulder of the person in front. They were told when they felt the hand on their shoulder squeeze then they should squeeze the shoulder of the person in front. The experiment was then repeated whilst the students were using their cell phones. It was discovered that the ‘squeeze’ message easily took much longer to transmit down the line. Additionally, on some occasions, the ‘message’ never got through as student were so distracted by their cell phones, they missed their cues. A number of the students never even looked up from their phones the whole time there were doing this experiment despite is supposed to be replicating driving and texting.
The clear message is that any use of a cell phone whilst you are operating a vehicle has the potential to cause a serious accident. Better to switch off devices whilst you are driving.