Cell phones create mental distraction, not physical hindrance.
Article Type: Brief article
Subject: Mental illness (Risk factors)
Mental illness (Research)
Automobile drivers (Psychological aspects)
Cellular telephones (Usage)
Cellular telephones (Health aspects)
Pub Date: 03/22/2009
Publication: Name: Annals of the American Psychotherapy Association Publisher: American Psychotherapy Association Audience: Academic; Professional Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Psychology and mental health Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2009 American Psychotherapy Association ISSN: 1535-4075
Issue: Date: Spring, 2009 Source Volume: 12 Source Issue: 1
Topic: Event Code: 310 Science & research Computer Subject: Wireless telephone; Wireless voice/data device
Product: Product Code: 4001230 Drivers (Vehicles); 3662166 Cellular Mobile Tel Equip NAICS Code: 485 Transit and Ground Passenger Transportation; 33422 Radio and Television Broadcasting and Wireless Communications Equipment Manufacturing
Geographic: Geographic Scope: United States Geographic Code: 1USA United States
Accession Number: 218027803

Cell phones have become an indispensable necessity, but their convenience may be overshadowed by safety concerns. Several states already require hands-free devices be used by drivers so they may have the use of both hands, but complete bans of cell phone usage while driving are still being considered.

The cell phone issue extends beyond mere physical hindrance of having one hand off the wheel. Researchers say that even talking on a hands-free phone is an unsafe choice that impairs a driver's visual processing skills. Despite common misconceptions, recent studies conducted at Carnegie Mellon using brain imaging assert that the distraction of talking on a cell phone is very different from speaking to a friend in the passenger seat or even listening to the radio or an audio book.

Utah researchers also tested 96 drivers to determine the effect of these distractions. The drivers were instructed to drive several miles down a road and pull over at a rest stop while speaking to a friend. The drivers that talked to a live person sitting next to them were not as distracted and found the rest stop; in fact, the passenger served as an extra pair of eyes to watch for the exit or any safety issues. Of the drivers who spoke on hands-free cell phones, however, at least half missed the exit. David Strayer of the Applied Cognition Laboratory at the University of Utah states, "It's not that your hands aren't on the wheel. It's that your mind is not on the road."

Parker-Pope, T (2009, January 12). A problem of the brain, not the hands: Group urges phone ban for drivers. The New York Times. Retrieved January 13, 2009, from http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/13/health/ 13well.html?_r=1&ref=health
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