Calling while driving is as dangerous as driving drunk

Researchers at the University of Utah have published a study that claims drivers on cell phones are prone to more crashes than drunk drivers. Two psychology professors, David Strayer and Frank Drews, along with toxicology professor Dennis Crouch, conducted the study. 40 test subjects drove a simulated highway while undistracted, drunk and talking on a cellphone. The cell phone using drivers crashed three times, while the drunk drivers surprisingly did OK.

Researchers found that the drunk drivers were more aggressive and followed closer than the cell phone using drivers. They also discovered that cell phone users had significantly slower brake times at 849 ms versus 777 ms of the baseline group. Researchers suggest that cell phones make drivers more sluggish in perception and reaction, reports TG Daily.

"We found that when people talk on a cell phone they are as impaired as they are when they drive intoxicated at the legal blood-alcohol limit (of 0.08). It was a surprise to us." said Frank Drews, one of the Utah researchers who has published earlier studies showing drivers on the phone are at higher risk of accidents.

Also to our surprise, the study supports the previous findings that there's no difference between hand-held and hands-free. "There is a (more dangerous) component when people are dialing the phone or searching for the cell phone in the briefcase on the seat beside them, but what distracts people when talking on a cell phone is the conversation, not holding the phone." he explained.

"If legislators really want to address driver distraction, then they should consider outlawing cell phone use while driving," said Mr. Drews, according to Xinhua.

When talking on the phone the drivers had three accidents, but when they were drunk, they had none. The drivers also had no accidents when they were sober and not using phones.

Researchers said they were surprised the drunken drivers were accident-free. They urged people not to misconstrue the results as suggesting that drunken driving is safe; there is no question it is not. The authors speculated that the lack of drunken accidents may have been because the study was conducted during the morning, when participants were well-rested.

Because the drunken drivers followed too closely and had more close calls, they would be expected to have accidents over time, Drews said.

The only states to ban driving while talking on a hand-held cellphone are Connecticut, New Jersey and New York. Washington, D.C., and some other communities have banned it, too, informs Seattle Times.

O.Ch.