June 29, 2006

Cellphone talkers as bad as drunk drivers: study

By Maggie Fox, Health and Science Correspondent

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - People who talk on cellphones while
driving, even using "hands-free" devices, are as impaired as
drunk drivers, researchers said on Thursday.

"If legislators really want to address driver distraction,
then they should consider outlawing cell phone use while
driving," said Frank Drews, an assistant professor of
psychology at the University of Utah who worked on the study.

The researchers used a driving simulation device for their
study, published in the summer 2006 issue of Human Factors: The
Journal of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society.

They studied 40 volunteers who used a driving simulator
four times -- while undistracted, using a handheld cell phone,
using a hands-free cell phone and while intoxicated to a 0.08
percent blood-alcohol level -- the average legal level of
impairment in the United States -- after drinking vodka and
orange juice.

Three study participants rear-ended the simulated car in
front of them. All were talking on cellphones and none was
drunk, the researchers said.

Motorists who talked on either handheld or hands-free cell
phones drove slightly more slowly, were 9 percent slower to hit
the brakes, and varied their speed more than undistracted

Drivers with an 0.08 percent blood-alcohol level drove a
bit more slowly than both undistracted drivers and telephone
users, yet more aggressively.

"Driving while talking on a cell phone is as bad as or
maybe worse than driving drunk," said Drews, who said alcohol
was involved in 40 percent of the 42,000 annual U.S. traffic

Just like many people who have been drinking, the cellphone
users did not believe themselves to be affected, the
researchers found.