April is designated as a month when we concentrate on awareness of the dangers of distracted driving. This message is not just for teenagers!
Many drivers over 18 years of age dismiss warnings about distracted driving as something that is not about them. The fact is that distracted driving is a problem for drivers of all ages. There have been many studies that concentrate on the dangers of teens texting while driving. That is dangerous business but it is not the only dangerous activity that drivers engage in on our roadways every day.
Numerous studies have been conducted which show that when you drive and engage in a phone conversation, your full attention is not on the potential dangers of the road ahead. Talking on the phone takes brain power! A driver with reduced attention has a reduced ability of a driver to keep an eye out for changing traffic signals or for braking traffic ahead. Studies show that a cell phone conversation takes a driver's attention away from factors outside the vehicle. Specifically, researchers at the University of Utah report that a the driver who is on a cell phone call focus on the "internal context associated with the cell phone conversation" rather than on the things going on outside the car as noted in the study published by the Journal of Experimental Psychology in 2003 (Vol. 9, No. 1, 23-32). These studies apply to hands-free calls as well as to callers using hand-held devices. The problem is not necessarily the smaller distraction of manipulating phone keys to make a call (which does take a driver's eyes off the road) but the concentration that is needed to participate in a phone conversation.
Before you dial your hands-free call while you are behind the wheel, please stop and take a moment to think about whether that call should wait until you can give it your undivided attention.