[SeMissourian.com] Fair ~ 17°F  
River stage: 11.89 ft. Rising
Thursday, Mar. 5, 2015

New study finds drivers using cell phones slow down commutes

Thursday, January 3, 2008

An unidentified man talked on his cell phone as he drove June 24, 2004, in Lawrenceville, N.J. People talking on cell phones are making commutes slower, by as much as dozens of hours a year, according to a new University of Utah study. The study, based on simulators, finds drivers using hands-free cell phones drive 2 mph slower in heavy traffic and are like clogs in traffic arteries.
(Associated Press file)
Distracted drivers are adding an extra 5 percent to 10 percent of time to commutes.

WASHINGTON -- Drivers talking on cell phones are probably making commutes even longer, concludes a new study.

Motorists yakking away, even with hands-free devices, crawl about 2 mph slower on commuter-clogged roads than people not on the phone, and they just don't keep up with the flow of traffic, said study author David Strayer, a psychology professor at the University of Utah.

If you commute by car an hour a day, it could add around 20 hours a year to your commute, Strayer said.

"The distracted driver tends to drive slower and have delayed reactions," said Strayer, whose study will be presented later this month to the Transportation Research Board of the National Academy of Sciences. "People kind of get stuck behind that person, and it makes everyone pay the price of that distracted driver."

Strayer's study, based on three dozen students driving in simulators, found that drivers on cell phones are far more likely to stick behind a slow car in front of them and change lanes about 20 percent less often than drivers not on the phone.

Overall, cell phone drivers took about 3 percent longer to drive the same highly traffic-clogged route (and about 2 percent longer to drive a medium congested route) than people who were not on the phone. About one in 10 drivers is on the phone so it really adds up, said Strayer, whose earlier studies have found slower reaction times from drivers on the phones and compared those reaction times to people legally drunk.

Combine those factors and Strayer figures distracted drivers are adding an extra 5 percent to 10 percent of time to commutes.

It's simply a matter of brain overload. Your frontal cortex can handle only so many tasks at one time, so you slow down, Strayer said.

Generally the study makes sense, but what happens to students in a simulator may not translate to real world conditions, said Anne McCartt, senior vice president of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Further, she said the study itself points out how distracted drivers are slower, but is short on calculations on just how it affects other drivers.

Wireless phone companies encourage people not to talk on the phone in bad traffic, said Joe Farren, a spokesman for the cellular phone industry's trade association. But he said he couldn't comment on the study because he had not had a chance to go over it.

Fact Check
See inaccurate information in this story?

Note: The nature of the Internet makes it impractical for our staff to review every comment. If you feel that a comment is offensive, please Login or Create an account first, and then you will be able to flag a comment as objectionable. Please also note that those who post comments on semissourian.com may do so using a screen name, which may or may not reflect a website user's actual name. Readers should be careful not to assign comments to real people who may have names similar to screen names. Refrain from obscenity in your comments, and to keep discussions civil, don't say anything in a way your grandmother would be ashamed to read.

i hate people that drive and use a cell phone. i think that maybe a hands free system of some kind would be better. i don't know how many times i have almost been run off the road or have some one pull out in front of me while the driver was on the phone. i ride a motorcycle and it's bad enough with out cell phones. i'm flat out tired of these huge SUV's and some lady talking on a cell phone not watching what they are doing. what's the point you can buy a $40,000 + truck, but can't buy a $50 head set for your phone.

why don't they pass a law on cell phone use while driving?

-- Posted by undertow666 on Thu, Jan 3, 2008, at 11:38 PM

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration. If you already have an account on seMissourian.com or semoball.com, enter your username and password below. Otherwise, click here to register.


Password:  (Forgot your password?)

Your comments:
Please be respectful of others and try to stay on topic.