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Hands-Free Phones Increase Car Crashes

Newswise - People who use a cell phone when driving are four times more likely to have a serious crash and hands-free phones don't help. A study was done in Australia of over 400 drivers who used cell phones and had been involved in car crashes so severe that they ended up in the hospital. After the data from this study came in, it has been illegal to use a cell phone while driving in western Australia.

Using phone company records, the researchers checked cell phone use immediately before a crash and on similar trips, by the same person, at the same time of day. Drivers were interviewed in the hospital and were included in the study if they admitted talking on a cell phone shortly before the crash or when the crash occurred. It was found that even people using a cell phone 5 to 10 minutes BEFORE a crash were four times more likely to have an accident.

Psychologist Steven Yantis says that the reason talking on a cell phone makes drivers less safe is that the brain can't simultaneously give full attention to both the visual task of driving and the auditory task of listening. He says, "Directing attention to listening effectively 'turns down the volume' on input to the visual parts of the brain. The evidence we have right now strongly suggests that attention is strictly limited?a zero-sum game. When attention is deployed to one modality?say, in this case, talking on a cell phone?it necessarily extracts a cost on another modality?in this case, the visual task of driving."

In fact, researchers are worried that as hands-free technology increases, accidents caused by cell phone use will actually increase as well, since people will no longer realize that they aren?t paying enough attention to the road.

Art credit: http://www.freeimages.co.uk

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